Brazil's Youngest 2014 FIFA World Cup Player: Bernard
The skillful Bernard, currently playing for Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk, is one of the most intriguing and exciting prospects in a Brazil squad full of so much talent. What follows is an article on Bernard’s rise to prominence, his successes so far, and where he will possibly end up next.
Rise to Prominence
Since he was just five years old, Bernard played for Comercial EC do Barreiro, where he was touted as one of the stars of the future by his coaches. Naturally, when Bernard came of age, many Brazilian clubs took an interest in signing the pacey midfielder onto their academy systems. Indeed, he was signed to Atletico Mineiro’s youth system in 2006, but was in fact released twice due to his short height, and apparent inability to adapt to the physical side of the game. However, Bernard kept working hard, and after being accepted into the club’s youth system for the third time in a short space of time, he was loaned to Democrata FC – a team made up entirely of Atletico Mineiro youth team players – where he excelled, scoring 14 goals in just 16 games.
Following this impressive stint, and despite being young enough to play in Copa Sao Paulo de Juniores, Bernard was called up to the Mineiro first team, by then manager Dorival Junior. He made his debut for the club in a match against Uberaba, playing in the right-back position due to the squad’s injury crisis at the time. Following this, he returned to the youth squads, scoring the winning goal of the Taca Belo Horizonte de Juniores.
Successes so Far
After Dorival’s dismissal and the appointment of Cuca, Bernard returned to the first team squad. This was when Bernard really started to break through at Mineiro, playing 23 times in his debut season, having made his league debut against Atletico Parense. Indeed, this attracted the interest of other clubs, and Atletico’s president Alexandre Kalil rejected a £3.4 million bid from Al Ahli Doha; a move which would certainly have proved disastrous for Bernard, at such an early stage.
He scored his first professional goal on 29 January 2012, against Boa Esporte. He then scored again against Caldense on 11 February, and twice against America-MG on 13 May, Campeonato Mineiro’s final. His first league goal came on 23 June, in a 5-1 rout of Nautico. He finished the season with 36 appearances, scoring eleven times, leading the club, along with Ronaldinho and Jo, to a second place finish in the league, an impressive achievement for such a young player. Bernard subsequently won the award of Brasileirao’s Best Newcomer.
In December, Spartak Moscow has a £9.8 million offer rejected by Alexandre Kalil, and eventually saw the Mineiro President accept an offer of £22 million from Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk. However, the player’s agent and father revealed his son had his heart set on joining FC Porto, although Kalil revealed Shakhtar were the only club to submit an offer for the player.
On 8 August 2013, Shakhtar Donetsk announced the signing of Bernard on a five-year deal, for a reported £22 million. He made his debut for the Ukrainian side on 31 August, coming on as a substitute for fellow Brazilian Douglas Costa, in a 1-1 draw with FC Metalist Kharkiv. Subsequently, Bernard was chosen as one of the top 11 South American players of 2013, by the Spanish newspaper El Pais.
What next for Bernard?
Commenting on the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution, Bernard has stated that he is willing to leave Shakhtar is the situation intensifies, and has made arrangements for a potential emergency exit. So, we can only speculate as to his next destination.
Having previously stated his desire to play for FC Porto, could the former Liga Portuguesa champion be tempted to make an substantial enough offer. Or, perhaps former bidders Spartak Moscow could make the most of the situation by trying to lure Bernard to Russia. It seems unlikely that a return to Atletico Mineiro would particularly suit either party, but you never know in football.
Of course, Bernard could be tempted to make a move to the Premier League, where the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham would surely be on the lookout for top attacking talent. Bernard’s natural pace, skill and flair could add something to any Premier League side, although he would need to adapt to the physical side of the game.
So, what do you think? Will Bernard stay at Shakhtar, or leave to pastures anew? State your views in the comments below.