Belgium have ensured World Cup qualification for the first time since 2002, with the golden generation of players from the central European nation tipped as underdogs in the tournament in Brazil.
With the guts of the star-studded squad plying their club trade in the Premier League, the amount of talent available to coach Marc Wilmots is substantial.
One player that has played a role in Belgium’s qualification from Group A has been Chelsea winger Kevin De Bruyne. The 22-year-old has amassed 16 caps for his nation, and one first glance looks like a player that could be a real asset for Belgium in the World Cup.
However, for De Bruyne to meet his potential on the world stage next summer, he firstly must ensure that he is playing regular first-team football at club level. In his current situation at Stamford Bridge, the former Genk attacker is not guaranteed this.
The talented wideman spent last season on loan at Werder Bremen and impressed. With José Mourinho taking over at the west London club in the summer, the Belgian looked at it as a chance to prove himself in the Premier League.
The option to go on loan for another campaign, similar the option that countrymen Romelu Lukaku and Thibaut Courtois opted for, was open to De Bruyne. However, he decided to stay at Stamford Bridge and battle for his place in the starting XI.
Rumours in the press of late have suggested that the Belgian has dropped in Mourinho’s estimation and that the player and coach do not see eye to eye.
Despite this, De Bruyne has stated recently that he is ready and eager to force his way back into Mourinho’s thoughts.
“Am I panicking? Of course not. Honestly, I’m not worried. You seem to be more worried than me,” De Bruyne said.
“Mourinho is the boss and he decides who plays. He tells me when I’ve done something wrong, but I’ve heard nothing as negative from him as what I’ve been reading in the media.
“I chose to stay (instead of going on loan) and I have no regrets. I continue to fight hard. My chance will come.
“I’m really not concerned about finding a solution in January. That we will have to see.”
The player’s motivation to make it back into the Chelsea first-team is admirable, but looking at it from distance, De Bruyne will have a mission on his hands to start regularly.
So far this term Mourinho has opted to play Oscar and Eden Hazard whenever available, which only leaves one position in the team’s attacking midfield trident up for grabs.
For this role, the Belgian will need to be preferred to Juan Mata, André Schürrle and Willian – three players also looking to secure a place in their respective national squads ahead of next summer.
Mata’s surprising omission from the starting XI at the beginning of the season looks set to come to an end, and as such the Spaniard will likely be preferred to De Bruyne going forward.
With this in mind, De Bruyne needs to carefully evaluate his options in January. If he stays on at Chelsea and does not play regularly it could well cost him his place in the Belgium squad and the opportunity to shine on the world stage next summer.