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After the 3-3 draw with Mexico in an international friendly last week, De Bruyne questioned the tactics used by the team. When asked about the situation in a press conference on Monday, Martinez said the City man had done nothing wrong and was adamant there’s no tension between the pair.
“What De Bruyne had to say wasn’t a personal attack,” he stated, per DH (h/t Tom Coast of Sport Witness). “Every player has an opinion. He’s an honest person, he isn’t be disrespectful. What he said isn’t going to force me to change things all of a sudden, but his frustration is understandable since he is a winner. We all want players with that mentality.”
Below is a reminder of what the midfielder said after the match against Mexico, per Goal:
B/R Football @brfootball
It doesn’t sound like Kevin De Bruyne is too happy with Roberto Martinez’s tactics 👀 https://t.co/AxJhPACKOC
Belgium were open in defence, twice surrendering a lead, before falling behind and eventually grabbing an equaliser.
Although the game was only a friendly, it was the type of performance that’ll trigger some doubts about whether the Red Devils are capable of going all the way at the FIFA World Cup in Russia next year. And there was a degree of naivety about the manner in which Martinez set the team up.
Frequently the three-man defence was left exposed by Mexico stars Hirving Lozano and Carlos Vela, while in midfield Belgium struggled to get much of a grip on the contest.
While Martinez may insist the words from De Bruyne are not a jibe towards him, Bleacher Report’s Gianni Verschueren doesn’t believe they can be interpreted any other way:
Gianni Verschueren @ReverschPass
Kevin De Bruyne addresses Belgium’s lack of solid tactical system and approach. Claims it’s not a shot at Roberto Martinez, which makes no sense whatsoever. Who else could be to blame? https://t.co/63JjJpoal1
In fairness to the Belgium boss, the team was without defensive stalwarts Vincent Kompany and Toby Alderweireld against Mexico. Additionally, the Red Devils were impressive in securing their qualification for the World Cup next summer, winning nine games and drawing the other in Group H.
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De Bruyne was withdrawn from the match at half-time having struggled to have his usual impact on the contest.
Under Pep Guardiola at City this season the 26-year-old has been in sensational form, starring at the heart of the side. De Bruyne’s close control, in-game intelligence and stunning passing range has seen him earn a reputation among many as the finest footballer in the Premier League.
Belgium are next in action on Tuesday in a friendly against Japan. It’ll be fascinating to see what approach they take after what’s been said as of late.