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“Kevin De Bruyne is head and shoulders above any player in the Premier League.”

That is the view of opposing manager Mark Hughes after watching his Stoke City side get torn apart by Premier League leaders Manchester City on Saturday.

Hughes has witnessed first-hand a vast array of the seminal moments that have helped shape City's recent past.

He was, after all, at the helm when the Abu Dhabi takeover was complete in 2008 and the monumental shift in momentum that occurred soon afterwards.

Just four years later, Hughes stood perplexed in the opposite dugout as Sergio Agüero bagged a sensational last-minute winner against Queens Park Rangers to seal the Premier League title in the most dramatic fashion.

And on his return to Etihad on Saturday, the Welshman would once again stand helplessly in the opposing dugout and witness arguably the finest performance from a Premier League side in recent times.

Collectively, Stoke were blitzed in a second half which will live long in the memory for those lucky enough to be present.

Normally in such magnificent team performances it's difficult to single out one individual display – but this was the De Bruyne show.

A masterclass of midfield ingenuity and a faultless array of passing, it's difficult to argue with Hughes' bold statement.

“It's important to understand, this result isn't going to define our season,” Hughes admitted.

“We've come up against an exceptional City side and we've been found wanting unfortunately, in terms of physicality and the ability to get close to them.

“They've got genuine world-class players within their ranks.

“Kevin De Bruyne is head and shoulders above any player in the Premier League in my view – given the level of performance and the way he can dictate and effect the game.”

Pep Guardiola’s side have now scored 29 goals in their first eight league games. It’s a feat last achieved by Everton in October 1894.

The seven they settled for against Stoke in Saturday's thumping was indebted to the creative genius of De Bruyne, who had a hand in four of the goals — two for Gabriel Jesus, and one each for Raheem Sterling and Leroy San.

Since joining City in August 2015, no player in the top five European leagues has more assists than the Belgium international.

His 32 to date has him two clear of Barcelona's Luis Suárez, three clear of Tottenham's Christian Eriksen and five clear of Lionel Messi.

And the statistics make for even better reading when you consider that De Bruyne, whose sublime display was his 72nd Premier League appearance, has more assists than any other player after the same number of games.

Quite an achievement given he is two clear of Mesut Özil and three clear of Manchester United legend Eric Cantona.

And while Guardiola's inadvertent dig at Tottenham, after he labelled them “the Harry Kane team”, was blown majorly out of context it's becoming more apparent that De Bruyne is one player City can ill-afford to lose right now.

The 26-year-old almost single-handedly killed off Stoke in a ruthless second-half display, leaving Hughes in awe of his ‘world-class' talents.

“It probably flattered us at 3-2 but nevertheless we were certainly back in the game,” Hughes added.

“I think players like De Bruyne see those situations and then they just grab the initiative and say this isn't acceptable and they take the game away from you.”

The Belgian's re-emergence since his return to the Premier League has been nothing short of miraculous.

Deemed surplus to requirements by then Chelsea boss José Mourinho, De Bruyne's reinvention leaves many fans up and down the country suggesting he is the best player in Europe on current form.

His starring role in the heart of a dynamic City midfield will only enhance those credentials and under the guidance of Guardiola, there may still be more to come.

De Bruyne is an example to be followed for many a player looking to reinvigorate their fledging careers.

He left Chelsea with a point to prove, joined Bundesliga side Wolfsburg and hasn't looked back since.

Although he'll never admit it Mourinho must be left wondering what might have been, especially if De Bruyne continues in much the same vein and guides City to the Premier League title at the expense of their fiercest rivals.

Premier League