The king of assists: Dazzling De Bruyne shows why new contract is Pep's priority

Kevin De Bruyne Pep Guardiola Man City GFXGetty/Goal

Even after a difficult start to the season, Kevin De Bruyne’s creativity remains remarkable.

His Manchester City team-mates are proving profligate in front of goal, and he's had his own struggles with fatigue, yet the king of assists already has 10 from just 12 appearances.

His latest arrived in Saturday's comfortable 2-0 win over Fulham, with De Bruyne setting up a goal for Raheem Sterling before netting one himself from the penalty spot.

However, it wasn't just those decisive contributions which made him a joy to watch.

De Bruyne was irresistible throughout, an almost unstoppable attacking force, pulling the visitors one way and then another as City racked up 16 shots on goal.

Granted, Fulham were naive, particularly in the first half, with rookie manager Scott Parker too slow to come up with an answer to City’s short, sharp passing through their midfield and backline.

In that sense, they were perfect opponents for a side that is starting to click into top gear. However, the skill and precision De Bruyne displayed in picking holes in their defence showed just why he remains the best creator in England.

Indeed, the Belgian now has 14 assists in the Premier League in the calendar year – more than any other player. There was a beautiful simplicity about the way in which he fashioned the opener for Sterling.

De Bruyne cleverly created space for himself before rolling the ball into the path of his team-mate, who neatly finished past Alphonse Areola.

Sterling, then, effectively turned provider by winning the penalty from which De Bruyne doubled the home side's advantage.

Kevin De Bruyne Manchester City 2020-21Getty Images

A notoriously relaxed character, the attacking midfielder shrugged off last month's surprise penalty miss against title rivals Liverpool – as well as a request from Riyad Mahrez to take the spot-kick – and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way for only his second goal of the season.

De Bruyne had been one of the players that suffered most from the lack of a pre-season and hectic start to the 2020-21 campaign that also featured four appearances for Belgium.

Consequently, Pep Guardiola lowered the intense demands on his star man and, helped by the early qualification for the Champions League, the 29-year-old was rested for recent European games at Olympiacos and Porto.

The result has been a refreshed and vibrant De Bruyne, back to his best as the ticking heartbeat of a dangerous side, which is beginning to purr and is now up to fourth in the Premier League table.

Against Fulham, City showcased their attacking threat with their captain at the centre of everything. Early in the first half, he casually flicked the ball over Ademola Lookman to set up a lightning counterattack.

Shortly after, he received a drilled pass from Ederson with his back to goal and set City off on another break that almost ended with a Mahrez goal.

De Bruyne could have added to his own tally, too, with one effort blasting against the bar and another shot well saved by Areola.

However, when he’s in this sort of mood, De Bruyne is beyond reproach. This was a reminder that he is utterly integral to City's hopes of further success under Guardiola.

The former Chelsea midfielder still has two years remaining on his current deal and talks have already begun on an extension, with hopes high that it could be announced soon.

The sooner, the better, really.

Tying Guardiola down to a new contract was City's top priority. Tying De Bruyne to a new contract is now Guardiola's.