Kevin De Bruyne reveals he’s been ducking out of headers in training as Belgium star takes no risks with eye injury suffered in the Champions League final… as playmaker prepares to START against Finland
- Belgium face Finland in their final Group B game of the Euros on Monday
- They’re through, but the return of Kevin De Bruyne to the starting XI is a boost
- The Man City star suffered an eye injury in the Champions League final in May
- De Bruyne has now said he’s been forced to stop heading the ball in his rehab
Kevin De Bruyne has avoided heading the ball in training as he prepares for his first start since last month’s Champions League final which left him with an acute nose bone fracture and damaged eye socket.
De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Axel Witsel, who all began Euro 2020 on the sidelines, will be included in Roberto Martinez’s team for Belgium’s final group game against Finland on Monday having already qualified after wins against Russia and Denmark.
After he masterminded Belgium’s comeback win in Copenhagen with an assist and goal from the bench, De Bruyne acknowledges his preparations have been different after Antonio Rudiger’s bodycheck forced him out of Manchester City’s defeat by Chelsea.
Kevin De Bruyne has revealed he is not heading the ball in training due to his eye injury
The Belgian maestro was injured in the Champions League final by Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger
He could not fly for 10 days and then had eye surgery to prevent the prospect of suffering double vision later in life.
Heading still is not on the menu, though De Bruyne is ‘glad’ he does not have to wear a mask. Fortunately nobody is better at letting their feet do the talking than the 29-year-old City star.
‘The doctors and coaches know I broke my nose and had a bit of a concussion so we are just careful,’ revealed De Bruyne about his cautious training regime.
‘I still have very little feeling on my left side. It is annoying but OK, I’ve got used to it. In the beginning, I was scared to go into confrontations but once a match starts I am so concentrated I don’t think about it.
The midfielder was outstanding after coming on against Russia, putting on a masterclass
De Bruyne’s inclusion from the start against Finland will largely be focused on building him up
‘I knew from the moment it happened, I couldn’t make the first match of the Euros. The coach told me he wanted me to be a sub against Denmark and then get rhythm by starting against Finland. It’s ideal for me.
‘I’m not angry with Rudiger. I know he wanted to block me but he didn’t want to hurt me so I don’t have a problem with it. He sent me a message after the match, I responded and that is long gone.’
De Bruyne is hugely admired in England with three Premier League titles and a record number of assists since he arrived. After a decade dominated by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, he’s now a contender for the next Ballon D’or, particularly if Belgium triumph at the Euros.
‘I am proud people consider me as one of the possible winners,’ he said. ‘It means you are mentioned with the best players in the world. That is the thing I have been working for my whole life. It’s nice.’
Belgium are among the favourites for the tournament and De Bruyne will be crucial for them
Belgium have other class acts. Striker Romelu Lukaku is in lethal form, Thibaut Courtois among the world’s best goalkeepers and Eden Hazard showed glimpses of his brilliance as a sub against Denmark after struggling at Real Madrid.
Martinez was pleased the golden generation were able to show their grittier side in their comeback win against the Danes.
‘We had to show an incredible resilience,’ said Martinez. ‘I’ve seen many games where you concede early, lose a second goal and then react too late.
‘This team showed experience and maturity because we faced adversity. We were able to suffer and come back to win.’