Who’s the Best? Kevin De Bruyne vs Mohamed Salah

We pitch the Liverpool and Manchester City legends against each other, analysing their stats and careers to date to determine who is the greatest.

Man City star Kevin De Bruyne will be tormenting Premier League defenders until 2025 after extending his contract with the runaway leaders.

Described as "a consummate professional" by City's director of football Txiki Begiristain, De Bruyne is integral to the success of Pep Guardiola's side.

He scored the opener in Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg win over Borussia Dortmund and played a part in creating the late winner for Phil Foden.

Despite his campaign having been interrupted by injuries, De Bruyne has scored eight goals and provided 16 assists in 33 appearances.

Kevin De Bruyne: Manchester City feels like home

His importance to City is matched by Mohammed Salah's influence at Liverpool.

Salah scored 19 goals and provided ten assists as Jurgen Klopp's men clinched a long-awaited Premier League title last season.

And despite a fall off in form from the champions, Salah has scored 18 goals in the current campaign, putting him second only to Harry Kane.

Here, Planet Sport tries to settle the argument as to who is the best, the Liverpool talisman or the Manchester City star.

De Bruyne vs Salah: background

Despite being regarded as two of the most sought-after men in world soccer, both players had similar struggles early in their careers. These were defined by a lack of minutes, opportunities and faith; and the blame lay with one club - Chelsea.

After coming through as a teenager at Racing Genk, De Bruyne was shipped off to west London as he eyed Premier League success at Chelsea. Three domestic appearances, a loan and £18million later, De Bruyne fled the grasp of the then Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, and found a new home in the Bundesliga at Wolfsburg.

In the Belgian's breakout season, he transformed Dieter Hecking's side. Die Wolfe won the German Cup (DFB-Pokal), while also finishing second in Bundesliga, which earned them a UEFA Champions League place.

A total of 16 goals and 28 assists in all competitions in 2014/15 not only earned the Belgian the accolade of German Footballer of the Year but also a swift return to the Premier League, as he joined Manchester City on a six-year contract.

While De Bruyne found solace in Germany, it was Italy where Salah showed his talent.

Having initially risen through the El Mokawloon youth system, the Egyptian forward went on to ply his trade for Basel, after impressing in a friendly against the Swiss side for Egypt's U-23s. Ironically, Salah scored both home and away against Chelsea in Europe, which must have been enough to convince the Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, that the Egyptian was a snip at £11million.

As with many young prospects at that time, Stamford Bridge was Salah's graveyard as he went on to make just 13 appearances for the Blues. However, just like his Belgian rival, loan spells followed by a permanent move was the answer to the Egyptian's problems. Salah truly found his shooting boots at Roma, as he tormented Italian defences - notching 29 league goals and earning himself the accolades of the club's top goalscorer and Player of the Season.

Under the tutelage of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, De Bruyne appears settled and still has three years to run on his current contract. His Egyptian rival is no different, contracted to stay on Merseyside until at least 2023.

De Bruyne vs Salah: transfer fees

It can be misleading to purely base a soccer player's talent on their transfer fees. Nevertheless, from youth soccer to the present day (including loan fees), it is estimated that Salah's transactions add up to £72million, while De Bruyne can better that with a total of £95million.

Assuming transfer fees indicate an investment in potential, the £7.2million Genk collected triumphs over the £2.25million Basel paid El Mokawloon.

Fast forward to 2017 and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp splashed out £37million for the Egyptian's services. Compare that to the £55million that Manchester City spent to prise De Bruyne away from Wolfsburg two years earlier, a fee that made the Belgian the second most expensive transfer in British soccer.

At the times of their moves, both were reported to be club-record fees - with Salah just shading the £35million paid for Andy Carroll, the Reds' previous record transfer.

But given that Angel di Maria to Manchester United (£59million) was the most expensive British transfer at that point, caution should be used when basing judgments solely on financial outlays.

Shying away from transfer numbers, into more numbers (goals and assists) may be a way of separating the pair.

De Bruyne vs Salah: goals and assists

Former Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini brought the Belgian to Manchester, but it is Guardiola that is credited with a significant portion of De Bruyne's continued success. In the only season the midfielder played for the Chilean manager, he recorded 16 goal contributions (seven goals, nine assists). Fast forward to 2021 and his Premier League numbers add up to 118 contributions (41G, 77A) in 179 appearances.

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To put the numbers side by side, Salah, as expected, is far superior in this aspect.

Klopp's striker has 125 involvements in goals (93G, 32A) in 150 league appearances, including his record-breaking season in which he scored 32 times - equalling Liverpool legend Ian Rush's record.

In fact, not only did the Egyptian comfortably outscore every other player in 2017/18, he also racked up more goals than three entire Premier League teams (West Brom: 31; Swansea City: 28; Huddersfield Town: 28).

But do these statistics tell the whole story? Operating from central midfield, the Belgian's numbers are increasingly reliant on his team-mates' finishing. To put it simply, these figures do not account for a player's total contribution, as they do not consider the missed chances and wasted opportunities a player creates.

For example, this season, De Bruyne has created 17 big chances from open play and has 11 assists to his name. Salah, in contrast, has been responsible for nine big chances but has only seen three converted. No matter how many times the Egyptian puts it on a plate for someone, there is no guarantee it will be reflected in his statistics.

Positional factors are also something to discuss here. While Salah operates consistently in Klopp's front three, over time, De Bruyne has been used in a range of positions across the midfield. Whether that be all the way back as a holding midfielder or up the other end as a No. 10. Usually functioning as a No. 8 in Guardiola's strongest XI, it is no surprise that Salah's attacking contributions tops the Belgian's statistics.

Finally, there's the international stage to consider. The Liverpool man's international record outweighs De Bruyne's by far. In just 69 appearances, Salah has been involved in 65 goals (43G, 22A), whereas the Belgian boasts 59 involvements (21G, 39A) in 80 appearances.

There are again numerous variables here. The quality of opposition the Egyptian faces in AFCON and friendlies can be considered inferior to those that Belgium come up against in the European Championships and Nations League.

On top of this, consider the quality of players in both nations. While Salah is Egypt's main man, with everything going through him, De Bruyne is surrounded by the likes of Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens and Romelu Lukaku. These players, and others, will impact De Bruyne's record as he is not Belgium's sole attacking outlet.

De Bruyne vs Salah: silverware and accolades

Broken records, silverware and personal accolades are synonymous with these two competitors. Player of the year, team of the season, golden boots, playmaking awards… You name it, these men have won it.

Interestingly, neither player has claimed the Premier League Player of the Season in the year their side lifted the top-flight title. Despite Salah's influence propelling Liverpool to their first Premier League triumph, it was the Belgian who claimed the majority of individual accolades in 2019/20. While, similarly, the year that the Premier League returned to the Etihad Stadium, Salah was the man to receive individual accolades - collecting the PFA Players' Player of the Year for his 32 goals in 36 league games.

Two Premier league titles, four League Cups and an FA Cup win for the Citizens provides De Bruyne with far more silverware than the Egyptian's four successes. However, when you consider two pieces of that silverware collection are the Premier League and the Champions League, it may give the Liverpool forward's case a bit more weight. Especially if you factor in that Salah has one thing Manchester City have never achieved: European success.

Away from domestic soccer, both have been acclaimed in European rankings. In 2019/20, the Belgian was named the best midfielder in the Champions League, while a second-placed finish in the UEFA Men's Player of the Year award also paid credit to the industrious work he did for Guardiola's side.

Once again, Liverpool's number 11 can match this. The year prior to De Bruyne's international recognition, it was Salah who came third in both the UEFA Men's Player of the Year and The Best FIFA Men's Player of the Year award.

With relatively little success for their nations, it is a challenge to differentiate between the two even in terms of personal or collective success.

Plainly, the debate boils down to the most goals scored (32) in a Premier League season versus the joint-most assists (20) in a Premier League season. Can either's influence be quantified exclusively by numbers?

Conclusion

For this 'Best of the Rest' or next-in-line to the Ballon d'Or argument, it ultimately revolves around your school of thought as to what defines 'the best'. A central-midfield playmaker, whose impact may be harder to quantify, compared to an out-and-out goalscorer.

While Salah near single-handedly raised Liverpool to both their domestic and European success, it's the Belgian who just edges this one.

If Salah is shut down by the opposition, Klopp's men still find joy through Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino or Trent Alexander-Arnold. Against Manchester City, stop De Bruyne's chaotic crosses, pockets of space and exquisite long passes and you have the potential to disrupt the whole team.

Consider Manchester City's clash with Liverpool in November which ended 1-1. For as long as the Belgian was marshalled by Georginio Wijnaldum, City were largely ineffective. As soon as City's No. 17 started to find space, not only did he set-up Jesus' goal, but he also should have scored from a penalty he himself won.

Considering City are by some way the best team in the Premier League right now and De Bruyne is their best player, it is only natural then to conclude that when it comes to De Bruyne vs Salah, the Belgian is best.