MANCHESTER CITY’s Secret Santa says the champions already have the perfect Christmas present – as they prepare to return to action on Thursday.
During the World Cup break, coach Pep Guardiola gave the club a boost by signing a two-year contract extension.
And luckily for City fans, it has no ho-ho clauses…
Kevin De Bruyne has dressed up as a sky blue Santa for the club’s Christmas campaign – ‘A Time for Giving’.
And the Belgium World Cup midfielder said: “It was great news to hear that while we were away. Pep has done so much for this football club and I am sure he will continue to do so.
“We want to win every single game and competition that we enter and Pep’s influence in helping us achieve that is just tremendous.”
City fans will be hoping this Santa can defeat old rivals Liverpool in Thursday’s Carabao Cup cracker.
A place in the last eight at the expense of the defending champions is high on the wish list.
It’s no wonder that the series winner also wants to close the five-point deficit on title leader Arsenal.
De Bruyne is ready to vent his World Cup frustrations on Premier League rivals Manchester City.
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The Belgian superstar endured a miserable period in Qatar when the Red Devils couldn’t make it out of their group despite being among the favourites.
And much of the blame was laid on 31-year-old De Bruyne, who effectively wrote off his country’s chances in an interview earlier in the tournament.
He then struggled to find his best form as Roberto Martinez’s men were stalled by Morocco and Croatia.
But after a brief period of rest and reflection, he has now plunged back into the domestic season with the Prem champions.
Having dressed up as Santa, he now wants to be more like Scrooge – and make sure all the silverware up for grabs by the end of the season goes to the Etihad.
Looking back on a dismal month, De Bruyne said: “It’s been a disappointing World Cup season for us.
“We’ve had a few successful big tournaments over the past few years – and unfortunately this wasn’t one of them.
“Now I’m back at City and I’m focused on continuing the strong first half of the season we had to give us the best possible chance of winning trophies at the end of the season.”
No team has had more players who took part in the World Cup than City – and boss Guardiola will need to review their physical and mental condition when they return to the club in the coming days.
One man the coach needn’t worry about is striker Julian Alvarez, who played a key role in Argentina’s spectacular triumph.
River Plate’s £14m arrival had provided a glimpse of his talent at City – but had been largely overshadowed by his new boy Erling Haaland.
However, he had an exceptional tournament in the Middle East – scoring four goals and connecting brilliantly with skipper Lionel Messi.
Alvarez – who hit the net six times in the first half of the season at City – will have a few days to enjoy the celebrations in South America before returning to Manchester.
But his club-mates and fans can’t wait to see what it will do for his confidence.
De Bruyne claims his performances in Qatar came as no surprise to the players who have trained with him every day at City – and hopes he can pick up where he left off.
He said: “Julian has been great with us since he came to us and now he has shown his quality at the World Cup.
“He’s already scored some important goals for us this season so we’ll keep our fingers crossed that it continues when he returns in the second half of the season.
“It was no surprise that he was doing so well for us – and in Qatar – because of his quality.”
Alongside Alvarez, Guardiola is still waiting for several of his players to return to the squad – including five English stars and three Portuguese.
That means City will be badly exhausted for Liverpool’s Carabao Cup visit on Thursday – and the same could apply when they return to the Premier League in Leeds on December 28.
It presents a new breed of challenge for KDB and his teammates as they seek to make it a hat-trick of titles – and five in the last six years.
The £54m midfielder said: “It was obviously different but we just have to try and be ready.
“It’s another challenge now, physically and mentally, but I’m sure we’ll be ready for the second half of the season.
“We will do everything we can to find the rhythm again and make sure we perform well.
“We will have to adapt to the situation. When I returned to training last week there were few older players so it’s a strange situation.”
Their first return leg couldn’t be more difficult, a draw against rivals Liverpool seems explosive given the clubs history in recent years.
De Bruyne said: “Of course we will try to win the game against a very strong team. It will be great to be back at the Etihad in front of our fans.”
But the midfield maestro took time out from the preparations to make this surprise visit to a City in the Community session.
Meanwhile, teammates Erling Haaland, Riyad Mahrez, Rico Lewis and Stefan Ortega visited the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital to distribute gift bags to patients.
KDB said: “My visit highlighted just how much these kids enjoy playing football with City in the Community coaches. Your enthusiasm is contagious.
“The impact of playing football on physical and mental well-being should not be underestimated.
“It makes me proud to know that City and their fans are now creating real opportunities for young people through the club’s campaign.”
Manchester City are giving away football this Christmas as part of the community campaign ‘A Time for Giving’.
The club have funded the equivalent of 76,000 hours of free football community sessions to support young people in Manchester – raising more than £190,000 in the process.
Since the beginning of November, the club has been donating £5 to its charity City in the Community for every purchase from a range of selected Christmas items.
In addition, the club has matched additional donations from fans and staff to bring the total funding for City in the Community football programs to a total value of £75,000.
Every £10 raised will enable one young person to enjoy four hours of football plus a healthy lunch during the school holidays in 2023 and beyond.
The club have also continued their annual support for the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital by donating more than 400 celebratory gift bags.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6959744/man-city-kevin-de-bruyne-santa-premier-league/ Man City star De Bruyne likes to dress up as Santa for the kids but transforms into Scrooge for the rest of Prem