KEVIN DE BRUYNE is set to hand Manchester City a huge boost by staying at the Etihad – regardless of whether they are banned from Europe.
And Pep Guardiola will offer him the carrot of taking over the captain’s armband from David Silva next season.
The Belgian set alarm bells ringing during lockdown when he said a two year ban from the Champions League might force him to consider his future.
City will learn their fate on Monday when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announce the result of their appeal.
But De Bruyne, 29, has told friends that his family is settled in Manchester and they are unlikely to push for a move this summer.
Whether anyone could afford one of the top players in the world after the financial impact of the coronavirus is another complication.
Guardiola has also thrown down the challenge for De Bruyne to show he can follow in the footsteps of fellow Belgian Vincent Kompany and become a City captain.
The former Barcelona boss – whose team travel to Brighton tonight said: “It depends on him.
“The leaders decide for themselves with their behaviour, how they behave on and off the pitch and the relation to the team.
“How you think for the club and the team comes naturally without force. If it comes it will come. It depends on him and also his mates if they trust Kevin.”
Guardiola has a dilemma over whether to continue playing de Bruyne and his other key men in the Premier League – knowing their priorities are elsewhere.
City’s place in the top four is already guaranteed for next season so there is little riding on their final four league matches.
Pep said: “I rotate at lot, the team. Kevin didn’t play against southampton, he played 30 minutes, didn’t play much in his level.
“But then he came back at an incredible level the last game. That’s part of football.
“All the players are involved, they are playing a lot of minutes since we arrived. There is not one player who didn’t play. The important thing is they are fit.
“Arsenal is an important point but it’s also important to keep momentum and rhythm to the way we play. We just hope nobody gets injured.”
Guardiola insists he is not taking much notice of whether champions Liverpool break the 100 point record set by City two years ago.
He said: “If they do it they will deserve it. 100 points is so difficult.
“They will deserve it and I will congratulate them but even if they don’t it’s still incredible.
“Records will be broken sooner or later, not maintained for another two centuries. If it happens it happens. Honestly it’s not my business right now.
“It’s my business to finish second and especially to try to win the two competitions we are still in.”