Bruno Fernandes and Kevin De Bruyne are arguably the best two players in the Premier League.
With Manchester City and Manchester United occupying the highest rungs of England's top-flight, their star midfielders are amongst the most widely-praised players in the land - and for good reason.
As such, the battle-lines dividing the Manchester clubs are not only being drawn between the teams themselves, but also Fernandes and De Bruyne as two of world football's most talented creators.
Man City vs Man Utd
However, if you were to ask most football fans who they thought was the superior player, then we quietly suspect that De Bruyne would come out on top.
We don't have a problem with that, by the way, because we'll be the first people to call De Bruyne one of the best players in the world and the Premier League's undisputed top dog last season.
But if you've read the headline of this article - please don't hurt us - then you're probably aware that we think Fernandes deserves more standing in the De Bruyne debate than he's often given.
Fernandes vs De Bruyne
In fact, we'd go as far as saying that we'd rather have Fernandes in our own imaginary team and say that, right this second, we think that the United star is the better Premier League player.
I'm sure plenty of you are angry about that statement and that's ok because it's worth clarifying that this is simply my opinion, which is by no means more important or correct than your own thoughts.
Nevertheless, in a world where 'it's my opinion' is apparently a conversation closer, I'm not simply going to leave things there and will use seven reasons that I believe will back up my claims.
And even if I can't persuade you that Fernandes is the superior player than De Bruyne right now, I hope that I can at least convince you that the debate is a lot closer than you might imagine.
Seven reasons why: Fernandes > De Bruyne
So, without further ado, check out the seven reasons why I think Fernandes deserves the nod over De Bruyne down below:
1. More important to his club
If De Bruyne is the cherry on the cake at City, then Fernandes is the cake itself because we're inclined to think that United would be scrambling for fifth or sixth place without their Portuguese talisman.
Staggeringly, United have only lost four of the 31 Premier League games they've played since Fernandes' debut and place second in the table since that faithful night on February 1, 2020.
It was even pointed out in mid-February, albeit in admittedly tenuous fashion, that United would have been 15th in the Premier League this season without Fernandes' goals and assists.
By contrast, De Bruyne is missed to a far lesser degree when he's unavailable for City and the 2018/19 season is living proof of that.
Injuries ensured that De Bruyne could only play 19 times and amass four goal contributions, but that didn't stop City from producing the third-highest Premier League-winning points tally in history.
2. Clearly the better goalscorer
Yes, yes, yes, we know. We're getting the most Barry Basic argument out of the way early because I think we can all agree that Fernandes is more lethal in front of goal than De Bruyne.
And while it might be tempting to dismiss this metric as complete nonsense - yes, we know they are very different players - goals win games, so the importance of free-scoring midfielders should never be underrated.
And just in case there's any doubt surrounding Fernandes' absolute dominance in this area, bear in mind that he's only 16 goals behind De Bruyne's all-time Premier League tally despite making 136 fewer appearances. Sheesh.
3. 'Penalty merchant' claims are nonsense
But before we move away from goal-scoring, let's address the elephant in the room because I can already picture some fans rolling their eyes and claiming that Fernandes' goal-scoring stats are all down to penalties.
However, what if we said that De Bruyne has actually relied on penalties more than Fernandes for goals this season with 66.6% of his strikes coming from the spot compared to 40.9% from his United rival.
Ok, sure, De Bruyne has only scored three times in 2020/21, so the sample size is small, but also bear in mind that the Belgian has mustered just six open play goals since Fernandes' debut.
And not only have half of them been registered against Sheffield United and Norwich City, but a total of six frankly looks minuscule compared to the 17 non-penalty goals that Fernandes has notched for United.
4. Holds his own creatively
Ok, fear not, we're moving away from goal-scoring now because I'll be the first person to admit that rippling the net has been nothing more than an added bonus in De Bruyne's glittering career.
Nevertheless, Fernandes is by no means miles behind his City nemesis when it comes to creativity and has only produced one fewer Premier League assist this season.
And according to WhoScored.com, Fernandes has averaged more through balls and long balls per game this season, while his key passes average of 2.8 is only a whisker behind De Bruyne's rate of 2.9.
And if we're going to take their overall games into consideration, too, then there are few better statistical deciders than the average match ratings calculated by WhoScored each season.
Remarkably, just to rubbish any claims of De Bruyne dominance any further, Fernandes matches his overall rating of 7.51 and would have been the outright winner if it wasn't for his lukewarm display at Crystal Palace.
5. Similar big game impacts
That's all well and good, but Fernandes is terrible in the big games, right? Well, believe it or not, we're not here to argue the contrary because the 26-year-old has looked distinctively average against the 'top six' at times.
Rather, we're here to show that De Bruyne isn't so impactful himself because the City star's three goal contributions against the Premier League's top clubs in 2020/21 is hardly much better than Fernandes' two.
In fact, even in De Bruyne's PFA Award-winning season, the four goals and assists that Fernandes inflicted upon the 'big six' aren't a million miles away from his rival's ten seeing as he arrived in January.
And that's not to mention the fact that Fernandes has scored the same amount of Champions League goals in just six appearances for United as De Bruyne has done in the last five seasons.
6. Strong squad influence and leadership
Look, we're not saying that De Bruyne is in any way a poor leader, far from it, nor do we claim to know exactly what goes on behind closed doors at both Manchester clubs.
But given the sheer quantity of evidence showing Fernandes' suitability to be United captain, I think we can all agree that the Portuguese brings more to the table when it comes to motivation and elite mentality.
From handing out penalties to Marcus Rashford while on a hat-trick; demanding high standards from Alex Telles in training to mugging off Pep Guardiola with a cheeky shush, you get more than just footballing ability from Fernandes.
In fact, we know of at least nine occasions where Fernandes proved he should be the United skipper and we're sorry, but it's hard to imagine De Bruyne offering the same fire and inspiration.
Besides, Fernandes won four Premier League Player of the Month awards in his first year at United whereas De Bruyne hasn't won a single won in almost half a decade.
7. Close to De Bruyne in the eye test
Wait, what? One of our reasons for Fernandes being better than De Bruyne is an area in which De Bruyne is better than Fernandes? No, I haven't lost the plot, so bear with me on this one.
I'm acutely aware that the whole premise of this analysis seems derogatory to one of the Premier League's greatest ever players and that many of my arguments are largely based on statistics.
Therefore, I thought it was important to praise Fernandes by way of noting that his astonishingly entertaining brand of football comes so close to matching that of the Premier League's best player to watch: De Bruyne.
His gut-busting tracking back, ambitious shots from range and fizzing diagonal balls are knocking on the door of the genius, physics-defying passes that make De Bruyne such a joy to behold.
So, yes, the fact that Fernandes isn't blown out of the water in this category is indeed a massive feather in his cap and a minuscule margin of defeat that doesn't undermine his victories in our other six points.
Two world-class players
Have we converted you or do you think we're talking absolute nonsense?
Well, either way, it's absolutely fine because your opinion - as long as it's one you can back - is just as valid as ours and we're talking about two world-class players here, so it's inevitable that there's going to be disagreements.
And don't think for one minute that we don't rate De Bruyne because opining that he's ever-so-slightly behind Fernandes on current form is like splitting hairs between Ferraris and Lamborghinis.
In other words, we bloody love them both...News Now - Sport News