How do you make the best player in the Premier League look even better?
Kevin De Bruyne has cemented his status as the cherry on the cake this season after a campaign riddled by jaw-dropping performances so far.
The 26-year-old has left purists drooling and silenced his last few remaining doubters.
But do the standard statistics fail to do De Bruyne’s genius true justice?
The bristling Belgian has scored four and assisted nine in 17 appearances for all-conquering Manchester City this season.
But his overall impact as City’s creative hub and dictator completely belittles those numbers, especially when you consider City have scored 56 goals already across three competitions.
That’s where the term ‘hockey assist’ comes in.
What is it? Well in hockey, players are awarded primary and secondary assists to acknowledge the creative contributions of those involved in the build up to goals.
The secondary assist, then, is the assist for the assist – effectively a pre-assist.
In football, the assists category is often skewed because it includes almost irrelevant five-yard passes prior to another player producing a moment of brilliance.
See Tom Carroll’s assist for that Gareth Bale thunderbolt against West Ham in 2013:
But if we introduced the hockey assist into modern football, De Bruyne’s influence would be appreciated even more.
Let’s take a look at a goal City scored during their 7-2 demolition of Stoke earlier this season.
De Bruyne (circled) has the ball 25 yards out with what seems like very little on in front of him.
But some things only the Belgian can see, and the reverse pass he produces for Leroy Sane is as sumptuous as they come.
The through ball cuts out FIVE Stoke players, allowing Sane to square for Raheem Sterling to tap into an empty net.
City’s fluid and vibrant attacking unit means a vast amount of their goals unfold this way, with Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero happy to gobble up simple finishes as a result.
The assists, on paper, then tend to go to the wide players in Sane, Sterling and even Kyle Walker, who have a whopping eight, two and five respectively in that category so far this season.
But this type of goal wouldn’t be possible without a creative mind like De Bruyne, whose unique slide-rule passes are the true creative inspiration behind them.
City have run their opponents ragged all season and Pep Guardiola’s midfield maestro has been at the heart of almost everything.
With the introduction of the ‘hockey assist’ the Belgian can be elevated to even loftier heights.