Portugal had to wait for a long time to win that elusive major trophy, a wish which was fulfilled when Cristiano Ronaldo and his team-mates conquered Europe by winning the UEFA Euro 2016. Even though silverware has eluded Portugal for a long time, the country has produced some of the big names in European football.
Eusebio, Luis Figo and Rui Costa dazzled the minds of football fans with their exceptional performances on the pitch and Cristiano Ronaldo is someone many kids across the globe look up to. Following in the footsteps of these great players comes another talent, the 21-year-old Bernardo Silva.
He has caught the attention of various top teams in Europe after his incredible season with AS Monaco in the top tier of French football. Silva is not one of those overhyped youngsters but a talent that has the potential to be world class.
Silva was born in Lisbon on 10 August 1994. He was a boyhood SL Benfica fan and joined the club’s youth academy when he was 8 years old. He played for the club’s youth team and won the Portuguese juniors championship in 2012-13 season. The following season, Silva started his senior career at Benfica B in the Segunda Liga. He took the league by storm and won the Segunda Liga Breakthrough Player of the Year award.
He made his debut for Benfica in a Taca de Portugal match against Cinfaes, when he was introduced as a substitute in the 80th minute. Silva found it extremely tough to break into Benfica’s first eleven and was subsequently loaned to AS Monaco. He made 15 appearances and scored twice in the league before the French side decided to secure his services on a permanent basis and Benfica let him go for a fee of €15.75 million.
The 2015-16 season has been his breakthrough campaign as he made 44 appearances and registered 7 goals and 3 assists to his name.
Silva has represented Portugal at various levels and his notable performance came against Israel in a UEFA Euro U21 qualifier. He scored 2 goals and provided a brilliant assist that day as Portugal came from behind to win 3-2.
Silva made his debut for the senior team in a disappointing 2-0 loss to Cape Verde and he would have been a part of Portugal’s squad for UEFA Euro 2016, but injury ruled him out of the tournament.
The highlight of Silva’s game is his dribbling skills and it is a joy to watch him when he is on the ball. He is excellent in one-on-one situations and often humiliates defenders as he gets past them with ease. His technique is sublime and he possesses excellent vision.
Silva passes the ball with amazing precision whether it be those diagonal balls to the wide men or deadly through balls that cut through defences. He has an incredible range of passes in his arsenal and his first touch sets him up really well to showcase his expertise with the ball.
Another major aspect of his game is his versatility. Silva plays on the right flank for Monaco but, he can also play as a number 10 or on the left side of the midfield. At times, he is a defender’s nightmare and has to be stopped by fouling.
The Portuguese is difficult to man mark and draws defenders towards him opening up spaces for his team-mates. The 21-year-old is good in front of goal and he plays a lot of key passes, and creates quite a number of chances.
As in the case of most of the youngsters learning their trade, Silva’s defensive contribution is average. He needs to improve the defensive side of his game in order to fulfill his dreams of featuring in the midfield of a top champions league side regularly.
The 21-year-old loses out a lot of aerial duels as he is just 1.73m tall. Occasionally he is found guilty of dribbling too much as he keeps moving around with the ball without making any real progress.
One thing that Silva would certainly have to work on is his shooting from distance which, at the moment is below par. His set piece delivery can also improve. One would feel that with more experience, he would nullify all these weaknesses.
The interest shown by the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Juventus obviously means that Silva’s talent is gaining attention from all corners of Europe. He certainly has enough about him to move to one of the top sides and that would certainly catalyse his transformation from a prodigy to a world class player. If he makes all the right choices in the next couple of years, he would have excellent careers for club and country.
The Portuguese have now got a taste of success and they would need more of the same and hopefully, Silva would contribute in fulfilling Portugal's dreams of more glory.Published 18 Jul 2016, 18:19 IST