JOSE MOURINHO once allowed one of the brightest young talents in European football to leave his club after only three Premier League appearances.
The Portuguese boss gave an interesting insight into the decision, too.
“He was not ready to compete,” the now Manchester United boss said bluntly in 2015.
“He was an upset kid, training very bad. He needs motivation to train well, by playing every game.
“If you have a player knocking on your door and crying every day he wants to leave, you have to make a decision.”
The young player in question was Kevin De Bruyne.
Chelsea had bought the Belgian for £7million from Genk only to move him on two years later for more than double the fee they paid.
At the time it looked smart business, three years later not so much.
So why did it go so wrong for De Bruyne at Stamford Bridge? We asked our friends at Football Whispers to answer that question.
When De Bruyne completed his move from Genk to Chelsea, he spoke eloquently about the challenges he faced by joining one of the biggest clubs in Europe.
“To come to a team like Chelsea is a dream come true, but now it’s a reality and I have to work hard to achieve the level that’s necessary,” he admitted.
“It’s a few steps up. Chelsea is one of the biggest clubs in the world and if you see the level they have compared to Genk then it is a real difference.
“But it’s something I want to achieve and I will work very hard to get there.”
His first six months as a Blues player were spent with Genk, the club who had honed and nurtured De Bruyne’s talents.
He wouldn’t link up with the Blues squad until the summer of 2012 where he was joined by another gifted young Belgian star, Eden Hazard.
But while the latter was already established, De Bruyne had to prove himself in pre-season.
He played in a 4-2 win against Seattle Sounders and then against PSG. But Mourinho, and Chelsea, decided his development would be better served out on loan.
He joined Werder Bremen for the 2012/13 season and shone in the Bundesliga. De Bruyne scored ten goals in 33 games for the club and was named Young Player of the Year in Germany.
He was ready for Chelsea, who kept the midfielder amid interest from Borussia Dortmund.
Mourinho integrated De Bruyne into his first-team squad and he started the opening game of the 2013/14 campaign, a 2-1 win over Hull City.
A start at Old Trafford in a 0-0 draw with Manchester United followed before he made a five minute cameo in a win over Fulham.
But then came a third round League Cup game at Swindon; a nothing game in the grand scheme of Chelsea’s season but one that shaped, and ended, De Bruyne’s Blues career.
Mourinho’s side won the game 2-0 but the Portuguese was unimpressed with De Bruyne.
He sent the 22-year-old to train with the club’s Under-21 side as punishment for what he viewed as a poor performance in which the Belgium international hadn’t carried out his instructions.
“With Kevin, I didn’t like the match he played against Swindon, and I didn’t like the way he was training,” Mourinho said after he left De Bruyne out of his match-day squad for a trip to Steaua Bucharest.
And that was pretty much that for De Bruyne’s Chelsea career.
Two more League Cup appearances followed and he only made the substitutes’ bench for five out of 16 Premier League fixtures.
“He [Mourinho] has never told me: ‘Kevin, you don’t train well,’” De Bruyne said in 2014.
“So it’s a pity he [Mourinho] told a press conference that I wasn’t doing well on the training pitch.
“That’s not me. I’m always a player who gives the full 100 per cent in training.
“Those remarks created a wrong image. My situation has never changed. That’s why I asked him in a friendly way: ‘Please let me go’.”
De Bruyne got his wish in January 2014, leaving for Wolfsburg for £18m.
18 months later he would join Manchester City for £54m having been named Bundesliga Player of the Season at the end of the 2014-15 campaign.
But Mourinho, who was still at Chelsea, believed his decision to allow De Bruyne to leave was vindicated.
“With De Bruyne, if you have a player knocking on your door and crying every day he wants to leave, you have to make a decision. At that time, Chelsea did well.
If De Bruyne stayed here, not happy and not motivated, and we’d sold him after a year, we’d have got less – 50 per cent less than we sold him for.
“But, if he was at Chelsea and not at Wolfsburg, he wouldn’t have reached this level.
“It was like a wall, a block. He always said he had trained well in his life, but he needs motivation to train well by playing every game.”
For De Bruyne, it’s all water under the bridge. He is going from strength to strength at Manchester City under the guidance of perhaps Mourinho’s greatest rival, Pep Guardiola.
The Catalan has created an environment for De Bruyne to thrive.
Had Mourinho been able to do the same at Chelsea, then the Blues may have possessed one of the most fearsome attacks in European football for years to come.