Bernardo Silva -The tale of another left-footed magician
Bernardo Carvalho Silva, known more commonly as Bernardo Silva was born in Lisbon, Portugal on the 10th of August 1994. An attacking midfielder by trade, the diminutive Portuguese joined the famed Benfica academy aged 7. Bernardo’s talents were often overlooked by Jorge Jesus - the then Benfica first team coach - due to his stature. Despite a myriad of calls by the fans for his inclusion in the first team, he was only afforded 31 minutes of competitive football over 3 appearances for the club. Jesus even tried to fashion a left-back out of him. With no intention of switching positions and no guarantees over playing time, Bernardo set out on loan to AS Monaco in the French Ligue 1 in the summer of 2014.
Not much was expected of the Portuguese upon his arrival in Monaco. He made his debut in Ligue 1 against Bordeaux replacing Lucas Ocampos. His performances during the first half of the season were not overly exceptional. He failed to record a single goal or assist until the 14th of December 2014 when he scored the solitary goal in an 1-0 win over Marseille.
Nevertheless, AS Monaco exercised his buyout clause of 15 million euros in the winter of 2015. It was after the aforementioned development did Silva really come into his own. He finished the second half of the season with 8 goals to bring his league tally up to 9 goals along with 3 assists having played 37 matches in total.
The 2015-16 season was a thoroughly underwhelming one for Silva. Monaco were knocked out of the Champions League having finished 3rd in their group and had to contend with Europa League football. He failed to record either a goal or an assist in either of the European competitions. His league performances also weren’t particularly spectacular either. He capped off the season with a league total of 7 goals and a solitary assist. He also picked up an injury which lead to him missing his national team’s successful run to the Euro 2016 trophy in France.
The following season however was one for the movies, both for Silva and the club. AS Monaco pipped favourites and defending Ligue 1 champions PSG to the league title and also reached the semifinals of the Champions League. Silva played an instrumental role in this magical run. Deployed on the right side of a 4-2-2-2 by Leonardo Jardim, the AS Monaco coach, Bernardo regularly drifted in centrally to influence play and was unplayable at times.
‘Les Monegasques’ were regularly mesmerized by the fleet footed magician. His performance against his future employers Manchester City in the round of 16 in the Champions League had one scrambling for superlatives. He had experienced midfielders like Yaya Toure and David Silva grasping at thin air. He concluded the season with exceptional figures of 11 goals and 12 assists in 58 matches across all competitions.
Bernardo Silva was on the radar of many European giants following a top-notch season with the ‘Red and Whites’. Manchester City however, moved quickly to add the Portuguese talent to their ranks for an estimated €50 million (which could rise to €70 million with add-ons) in the summer of 2017. The dynamic winger was the first of many signings in a summer spending spree by the Manchester side. His first season at the club was more of a learning curve than a resounding success.
Bernardo was mainly used on the right wing in a 4-3-3 formation. As Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola prefers his wingers to stick to the byline and ping crosses in, Bernardo was compelled to stay wide and wasn’t given the license to drift in centrally into the areas which were occupied by City’s midfield wizards David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne. Bernardo, however, would go on to make the most appearances for City in all competitions. He ended the season with 9 goals and 9 assists in all competitions having made 57 appearances in all competitions and guided City to the Premier league and Carabao Cup double.
The succeeding season however, would showcase his talent for all the world to see. The 2018-19 season was his most successful season yet in his fledgling career. Bernardo was deployed in a more central role in pre-season and was in fine fettle. He scored 2 goals against Bayern Munich in the International Champions Cup and also set up Aguero’s second goal in the community shield victory over F.A. Cup winners Chelsea.
However, it was expected that Guardiola would shunt the Portuguese back to the wing with Kevin de Bruyne’s return. However, as luck would have it, de Bruyne picked up injury after injury and Guardiola thus had to deploy Bernardo centrally. He was given the license to roam and thus dictated play along with his namesake, David. Despite being played on the wing upon de Bruyne’s return, Silva’s form never fluctuated. So good was he that he managed to keep club record signing Riyad Mahrez and German sensation Leroy Sane out of the side. He quickly became Guardiola’s most trusted player for Guardiola claimed:
“Right now it is Bernardo and 10 players more”.
He capped off a fine season with career best figures of 13 goals and 12 assists in all competitions and guided City to a treble of trophies: The Premier league, the Carabao Cup and the F.A Cup. Bernardo was also named the City’s Player of the Season and was included in the PFA team of the year.
Published 11 Jun 2019, 11:52 IST