In January 2012, Chelsea bought Kevin de Bruyne from Genk for just under $10.5 million. After two years, three league appearances, and couple of loan spells (one back to Genk after his initial purchase), the 22-year-old is about to leave Stamford Bridge, with the Blues possibly turning a nice profit in the process.
According to the BBC, De Bruyne is on his way to Wolfsburg, a deal that could see the Wolves pay $26.2 million for a player that only made three Premier League appearances for Chelsea. Along the way, however, De Bruyne spent a full season in Germany, putting up 10 goals in 33 games for Werder Bremen last season. Potentially bringing one of last season’s best attacking midfielders back to the Bundesliga, Wolfsburg’s £26 million expenditure could prove a wise one.
Though de Bruyne’s success in the Bundesliga hinted he was ready to make an impact at Stamford Bridge, the attacking midfielder has been unable to win significant time from the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian, Juan Mata, and Andre Schürrle. While De Bruyne has made 16 appearances overall for the Blues, most of those have been as a substitute or rotation option, with the Belgian cracking José Mourinho’s starting XI only twice in the Premier League.
That lack of playing time will leaving some lamenting the money Chelsea makes on this deal. Although wages minus loan fees cut into the over $15 million the Blues could profit from de Bruyne’s transfer fees, some will harp on what’s become a bit of profiteering. What has the modern game has come to, a nostalgic fan might ask.
But when you consider who’s benefitted from this de Bruyne’s movement, it’s difficult to see this as a problem. Genk made money, as did Chelsea and de Bruyne. Werder Bremen got a season from a player to whom they would otherwise not have access, while Wolfsburg ultimately ended up with a very talented player.
In the abstract, de Bruyne seems to be the big loser in terms of playing time, but his travels have really only cost him a handful of English league games. Along the way, he’s drawn wages from Chelsea while taking the player’s share of over $36 million in transfer fees.
The commodification of players does take some romance out of the game, but a player’s career choices aren’t obliged to be romantic. In the end, everybody ends up better off, including Benfica’s Nemanja Matic, who is likely to move back to London thanks to the money Chelsea’s getting from Wolfsburg.