Manchester: Kevin De Bruyne is second only to Lionel Messi, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said on Saturday after the Belgian inspired his team to a 4-0 win over Bournemouth.
Bruyne put the Premier League leaders ahead with a clever 15th-minute free-kick beneath the defensive wall and also played a part in goals for Kelechi Iheanacho, Raheem Sterling and Ilkay Gundogan.
Guardiola won a glut of trophies with Messi during their time together at Barcelona and in his eyes, the Argentina superstar is the only player who can put De Bruyne in the shade.
"Maybe Messi can sit alone at the table. But that table aside, Kevin can stay there," Guardiola told reporters at the Etihad Stadium.
"I think he's a special player, an outstanding player. He makes everything. Without the ball he is the first fighter and with the ball he's clear. He sees absolutely everything.
"He decides what you have to do at the right moment every time. Every time he makes the right decision. That's why he is a player at another level.
"I am lucky and we are lucky to have him. We will take care of him and I hope he will enjoy it with us to play his amazing football."
De Bruyne, 25, was the man of the match in City's 2-1 win at derby rivals Manchester United last weekend, scoring their opening goal and helping tee up Iheanacho for what proved to be the winner.
The Belgium international has now scored 18 goals and provided 16 assists for City in 48 appearances.