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Where is De Bruyne Heading Next After Exit Hint?

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De Bruyne looks towards the exit door

Kevin De Bruyne has made himself a hero at Manchester City, becoming one of the world's very best during their record-breaking years. The ex-Wolfsburg star has been the man these past few seasons and thinking of life without him at the Etihad must seem pretty bleak for the City faithful.

This nightmare, however, could soon become a reality. The playmaker told Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws: "Once the decision is made, I will review everything.

“Two years would be long - but in the case of one year, I might see. I'm just waiting. The club told us they're going to appeal and they're almost 100% sure they're right," De Bruyne said.

"That's why I'm waiting to see what will happen. I trust my team."

The City superstar is playing at the peak of his abilities at 28 years old and it would be doing football a disservice if a man of his talent wasn’t competing on the biggest stage in Europe.

However, his current contract runs until the summer of 2023, which throws many doubts into a potential transfer, should he wish to leave. Ultimately, whoever wants to seal his signature will have to bring out the chequebook in large numbers.

Of course, there are clubs out there who could afford to lure him away from City, however. Here, we will look at where arguably Europe's very best in De Bruyne could end up.

Real Madrid

Real Madrid are no strangers to signing the world’s elite, regularly spending whatever is necessary to bring the best players to the Bernabeu. Eden Hazard is the most recent in the long list of big signings for Los Blancos, moving to Madrid for a fee worth up to £150 million last summer, and his international teammate could well be next.

With the Spanish side’s current midfield maestro Luka Modric soon to turn 35, they will be in the market for a replacement, no doubt. They may have considered De Bruyne regardless of City’s current situation but in case they weren’t thinking of him already, they will have definitely set their sights on him now. 

The Bernabeu has already seen the Belgian's magic this season. The 28-year-old was the star of the show when dismantling Zinedine Zidane’s side in the Champions League round of 16, humbling the Spanish giants in their own home.

Madrid are never scared of splashing the cash, especially since the departure of their greatest ever in Cristiano Ronaldo. Now, signing De Bruyne is a must if they can get it done and when all is considered, it seems his most likely destination.

ICYMI: City must also prepare for life without David Silva with his departure this summer - we examine the 3 potential replacements for next season right here.

A return to Germany

Whilst still winning the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich haven’t quite hit their usual heights in Europe recently, failing to reach a Champions League final since their three in four seasons between 2009 and 2013.

De Bruyne has already shown he has what it takes to compete in Germany with the form he showed whilst at Wolfsburg. The Belgian won the Bundesliga Player of the Year award, which ultimately forced City to sign him on a six-year deal for a club-record fee in 2015.

One potential issue for Bayern fans is how they are not exactly renowned for big-money signings, choosing to pick up the best local talent for relatively low prices. With that being said, last summer's £68m capture of Lucas Hernandez from Atletico Madrid might have been the sign of a new-look Bayern, ready to splash the cash. Even if they aren’t used to paying the big prices, surely the opportunity to sign De Bruyne would be too good to turn down?

One thing is for sure, the addition of De Bruyne to the Bayern side would all but end next year’s Bundesliga title race before it even starts. 10 goals and nine assists for Werder Bremen caught Chelsea's eye back in 2013, whilst his 10 goals and 21 assists for Wolfsburg took him to City years later. Now, a return to Germany could well be on and he would once again take the country by storm.

Juventus in with a shout

Juventus are similar to Bayern in a lot of ways. Whilst they dominate domestically each year, a Champions League final often occurs but with failure - no club since the rebranding in 1993 have lost more finals than Juventus.

On top of that, they are another club who don't always spend the big money, similarly cashing in on the country's youth and league stars whilst they can. In 2001 Gianluigi Buffon was the Old Lady’s record signing which stood for 15 years and cost around £41m.

However, once that record was broken once, the Turin side have got a taste for marquee signings. Since Gonzalo Higuaín was signed for £80m, Juventus have since signed Matthias de Ligt for just under £80m and Ronaldo for £100m.

De Bruyne would certainly tick all the boxes for Juventus in their midfield area. They are in need for a splash of creativity in their midfield, which hasn’t truly been filled seen since the departures of Paul Pogba, Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio. De Bruyne would provide all of the creativity they need, and then some with his ability.

The midfield virtuoso could be the missing piece of the puzzle to end the Old Lady’s European drought and playing alongside the likes of Ronaldo and winning more titles would appeal to any player.

A Premier League rival is a long shot

There aren’t many realistic options if De Bruyne wants to stay in England. A move across Manchester is unthinkable, a Chelsea return is long gone and nobody else in the league would offer the Belgian what he needs. That is apart from Liverpool, of course.

The Reds have been head and shoulders above City this season and have a wealth of experience when it comes to winning European trophies, which is exactly what De Bruyne desires.

On top of that, Liverpool’s midfield is arguably the weakest area of their squad, which says more about the rest of their squad, and De Bruyne would make a significant improvement. And, the thought of the Belgian linking up with Liverpool’s deadly front three is a scary thought. 

Of course, City would want to avoid selling De Bruyne to Liverpool at all costs, but a move isn’t impossible. Liverpool would certainly be interested in picking him up if he became available and if he really wanted to leave City but stay in England, Merseyside is perhaps his best option.

The move, of course, seems very unlikely, but given De Bruyne’s recent announcement, it might not be impossible.

By Jak Richardson