TUBIZE, Belgium (AP) — Kevin De Bruyne joined up with the Belgium squad on Monday ahead of the European Championship after undergoing a 20-minute operation on his fractured nose and eye socket.
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez described De Bruyne’s arrival in the dining hall at the team’s training base in Tubize, just south of Brussels, as the “highlight of the day” as the world’s top-ranked country prepares for its opening match of Euro 2020 — against Russia in St. Petersburg on Saturday.
Belgium isn’t counting on the Manchester City midfielder playing in that match but he is “fresh” and “ready to participate in the Euros,” Martinez said.
“He watched our match against Croatia,” Martinez said of Belgium’s 1-0 win in a warmup on Sunday. “He is in the same state of mind as the team. But, rather than hearing from a distance, it’s a big difference when you see the player in person.”
The 29-year-old De Bruyne sustained his injuries in a collision with Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger while playing for City in the Champions League final in Porto on May 29. De Bruyne had to be replaced in the 60th minute of the match, which was won 1-0 by Chelsea, and looked groggy as he came off.
He underwent the minor procedure on Saturday, despite Belgium initially thinking he didn’t require surgery, and Martinez expects De Bruyne to be in full training by the end of the week.
“We will have a protective mask at our disposal even if he does not need to wear one in competition,” Martinez said.
De Bruyne was voted by his fellow professionals as English soccer’s player of the year for the second straight year on Sunday.
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