Manchester City have been the midfield kings of the Premier League for the last two years and could take it up another level next season.
There wasn’t a team in the land two years ago that had an answer for Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, and Fernandinho when the Blues stormed into an unassailable lead to give Pep Guardiola his first league title since moving to the Etihad. He may not have won any individual awards but there was no doubting the critical role De Bruyne played in creating such a gulf in the league.
As his manager said: “[Lionel] Messi is on a table on his own. No-one else is allowed. But the table beside, Kevin can sit there.”
De Bruyne’s absence through injury was supposed to hinder City last season, only for Bernardo Silva to transform into an all-action pint-sized wrecking ball that would hound players to win the ball off them and dance around them on the way to creating yet another goal. Again, Guardiola regarded him as the best player in the league.
Formidable without the other, the FA Cup final gave a terrifying preview of the havoc the pair could wreak when on the pitch on the same time and a strong pre-season should see them in peak condition for August.
While Bernardo has already shown at the UEFA Nations League that his touch and fitness are unlikely to desert him any time soon, De Bruyne’s recovery from a string of setbacks has been impressive.
If it was testament to the player’s mentality that he was able to play some part at both Brighton and Wembley, player and club are doing the utmost to tread cautiously; City are paying “more attention to the little details”, and De Bruyne’s concern about the upcoming international fixtures with Belgium shows he is very much conscious about his fitness where last season he may have been as carefree as Bernardo.
The Blues were interested in one of the most exciting midfielders on the continent in Frenkie De Jong, and have also been linked with Benfica’s Joao Felix – if Leroy Sane is tempted by Bayern Munich, it will be a bold call not to spend at least some of that money on a replacement.
But even without any signings, it is hard to see any Premier League team matching a midfield that can boast a fit De Bruyne and Bernardo and also have David Silva, Phil Foden and Ilkay Gundogan to call on.