Why Manchester United and Barcelona target Bernardo Silva is essential to AS Monaco
Analysis of why young Portuguese star Bernardo Silva is crucial to Monaco's chances in the Ligue 1 and Champions League
With the transfer season in full swing, various clubs across Europe are vying to buy the best players and with players costing more than ever before, getting good players at a reasonable price is now harder than ever. One such promising young player who has the eyes of Europe's heavyweights on him such as Barcelona and Manchester United is Monaco's prized asset Bernardo Silva.
Despite all the interest, we take a look why at such a young age the Portuguese has become the focal point of the Ligue-1 club's style of play.
Monaco's coach Leonardo Jardim has brought to Monaco a reputation for resolute defense, a necessity in low-scoring Ligue 1. Since taking over from current Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri, he has instilled a style of play that includes controlling possession in the opponent's half, playing with width, attempting crosses and being aggressive without the ball.
To suit this style of play, the principality club usually implied a 4-2-3-1 formation in the 2015-16 season with the 21-year-old Bernardo Silva playing in the hole or the Centre Attacking Midfield position, as it is better known, in front of a double pivot of Joao Moutinho and Jeremy Toulalan and being flanked on either side by Helder Costa and Nabil Dirar.
Bernardo Silva is not your usual number 10. The diminutive midfielder scores goals, as well as creates chances for his teammates a la Frank Lampard, a breed that is becoming more and more rare in European football these days.
In the 2015-16 season, he was Monaco's top scorer in Ligue-1 with seven goals which, as a midfielder, is very impressive considering the goal shy nature of the league.
With a strong left foot and excellent dribbling skills, he can be likened to someone like his countryman Rui Costa. Silva has excellent vision, technique and ability to beat players one on one. Standing at meagre 1.73m, the Portuguese does not let his short stature come in the way of his game.
He makes up for his short size by thinking before everyone else, a quality which a good midfielder must possess.
The versatility of the 21-year-old is another quality that makes him a stand out among his teammates. His ability to play on either left, right or centre of the attacking midfield of 4-2-3-1 formation certainly gives Monaco coach Jardim more options.
Like Real Madrid midfielder Isco, the ball sticks to his feet , the prime reason for which can be playing street football during his childhood days. This quality, according to his coaches, helps him to get through congested areas on the pitch.
Another aspect of Silva's game that often goes unnoticed and is crucial to Monaco's style of play is his pressing ability. Off the ball, Silva works and presses the opponents like a hound. In the 2015-16 season alone the Portuguese picked up 7 yellow cards, a number only bettered by Wallace, Carvalho and Fabinho – all defenders.
He averaged 1.4 tackles per game in the Ligue-1 in the 2015-16 season.
Despite all the talent that the Lisbon native possesses, his lack of match-fitness is a concern for all the clubs that are scouting him. He was expected to play a crucial role in eventual winners Portugal's Euro 2016 run in France but had to miss out on the 23 man squad due to a thigh injury that he sustained in the final league match of the season.
He has been plagued by many injuries in the 2015-16 season and therefore has not played to his full potential, but with a Champions League two-legged qualifier coming up against Fenerbache, Monaco will hope that he stays injury-free and is at his very best, if Monaco wish to go through.