Kevin de Bruyne’s “incredible” display in Manchester City’s win over Leicester “was the best he has played in a long time”, says boss Pep Guardiola.
Belgium midfielder De Bruyne, 28, produced another dominant performance as the champions closed the gap on second-place Leicester to one point.
De Bruyne set up Gabriel Jesus’s goal, with Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan also scoring in the 3-1 victory.
“He’s a spectacular player,” said Guardiola. “He won the game for us.”
Playmaker De Bruyne ran the show in City’s previous Premier League game against Arsenal, scoring twice, and although he did not find the net against Leicester, his assist took him to double figures for the campaign before Christmas.
In terms of attacking stats this season, former Chelsea player De Bruyne ranks in the top five for most shots (52), most times in hitting the woodwork (3), most through balls (11) and providing the most crosses (170).
Guardiola said: “I am delighted with the way we played. We created a lot and played really good. I enjoyed it much more [than the Arsenal game].
“Kevin de Bruyne was incredible tonight – he won the game for us. He has always been incredible since we’ve been together. His commitment is incredible. He’s a spectacular player.
“He is a fighter and he helps us keep up the intensity when he’s playing further up he helps the press a lot. That was the best he has played in a long time.”
De Bruyne, whose five tackles against Leicester was the more than any other player on the pitch, said: “I think defensively we were good – there was a lot of pressure on the ball – we didn’t let Leicester play at all.
“Leicester did go ahead but that was the only chance they had.”
Leicester’s loss meant they stay 10 points behind unbeaten league leaders Liverpool, who have a game in hand after travelling to Qatar and winning the Club World Cup.
Foxes boss Brendan Rodgers said: “We have to respect the quality of opposition we were against tonight. Technically they’re on another level and Kevin de Bruyne was world class tonight.
“To be ahead of City at this stage of the season shows how well we’ve done. We were better second half and for us it’s about that continual growth as a squad.”