Kevin De Bruyne has played through "serious pain" with Manchester City this season but feels his condition is starting to improve.
The Belgium international has had a tough few months due to physical ailments, starting with the collision with Antonio Rudiger in the Champions League final that left him with a fractured nose and eye socket.
De Bruyne was able to recover in time to play a part in Belgium's ultimately unsuccessful Euro 2020 campaign, though he sustained another injury in the last-16 victory over Portugal.
It was ankle ligament damage on that occasion, yet De Bruyne still played Belgium's next game as they were eliminated by eventual champions Italy.
The midfielder was able to have a brief cameo in City's Premier League opener but then disappeared again until September due to the injury, and he says he still has not truly recovered.
"It's going to be a little more difficult this year than usual," De Bruyne said on the MIDMID podcast. "It's not that bad, I think, but it's been a bit difficult physically and mentally.
"I came back with a lot of pain after the holidays, and then at the start of the season I hit a wall.
"I've been in some serious pain, but it's starting to get better. I just needed more time than expected."
Despite opting to play in pain, De Bruyne's influence at City has not dipped much at all in the Premier League this season.
In fact, he is actually having more touches (83.8, up from 81.6) and playing more passes (59.6, up from 56.9) on average per 90 minutes than in 2020-21, while his shooting (3.4 per 90, down from 3.6) and chance-creation (3.2, down from 3.6) frequencies have not changed massively.
De Bruyne is engaging in fewer duels (9.3 per 90, down from 10.8) and committing fewer fouls (0.4, down from 1.2), which suggests he could be taking greater care to not aggravate the problem in physical collisions, though this side of the game has never been his priority on the pitch anyway.
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