As part of the big Premier League coverage they’ve been doing, ESPN Brasil are not only interviewing the league stars, but also their former teammates who have old stories to tell.
They normally find a Brazilian who knows some Premier League player well, and ask them about the old days. This has been done many times, and this week it was the Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne who was the subject.
ESPN Brasil interviewed João Carlos, a defender who played for Belgian side Genk between 2008 and 2011, and followed De Bryune’s first steps to professional football.
De Bruyne is now a football superstar with Manchester City, and has always been determined to get to the top of the game.
“I was Genk’s captain and I followed the rise of De Bruyne. From that time I could see that he had quality and was different. It was only a matter of time for him to become a starter,” João told ESPN.
“He came running over everybody, with a monstrous personality. As a captain, I had to hit hard on him from time to time, but he was always the same as he is today: strong personality on and off the pitch and absurd self-confidence.”
João Carlos told ESPN that he became kind of an older brother to De Bruyne, and the youngster could only go out at night if accompanied by him: “As he went up to the professionals at the age of 17, his parents would only let him out at night if he was with the older players. The guys who already had some responsibilities, with family, kids, etc. Their parents really liked me and they would say to me, ‘João, Kevin will only be able to go if you go along’.
“I couldn’t let him have a drink of alcohol at all, so he would get the soda and we would take our caipirinha at the Latin restaurant that we used to go to. Our group was very cool: Courtois, De Bruyne, Benteke, Marvel Gondini, and I.
“It was funny because after the games at the weekend we always got a couple of days off. Then he would come to me as if he didn’t want anything and ask: ‘John, you’re going to hang out by yourself or with your family?’ He wanted to know because he could only leave the house if I was with him, so he wanted to get ready, I knew that his father was not going to let him go out with the other friends, but with me he was always free to go.”
De Bruyne left Genk in 2012, and had spells at Chelsea, Weder Bremen and Wolfsburg before signing for Manchester City in 2015.