Kevin De Bruyne will be hard to replace, said Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola after it was announced the Belgian would be out of action for three months because of a knee injury.
The 27-year-old midfielder — who scored eight goals and provided 16 assists as City romped to the Premier League title last season — will not have to undergo surgery on the injury which he suffered in training on Wednesday.
But his recovery will mean he misses the Premier League clash with the team many think will be City’s main title rivals, Liverpool, on October 7 and the Manchester derby on November 11, as well as part of the Champions League group stage.
“For Kevin and his family it’s hard, but we accept it,” said Guardiola at his Friday press conference.
“Human beings have a limit and these things happen. He will be a big miss.
“It is not easy to replace Kevin. We are going to try and do our best without him and try to be there by the time he returns.
“We will support him and my advice to him is to rest and take the holiday he didn’t get this summer.
“When he is ready… we will welcome him with open arms.”
Earlier, City had revealed De Bruyne had suffered a “lateral collateral ligament (LCL) lesion in his right knee” after the player had undergone a scan.
De Bruyne, who enjoyed a superb World Cup as Belgium reached the semi-finals, suffered a similar injury in a league game with Everton in January 2016, which kept him out of the team for two months.
He came on for half an hour in the 2-0 opening Premier League victory over Arsenal last Sunday.
While Guardiola said he would be hard to replace, City have more depth than most thanks to their Abu Dhabi owners spending generously on players.
The likes of Bernardo Silva, David Silva, Ilkay Gundogan or even the home-grown teenage talent Phil Foden are capable of filling the vacuum.