If all the speculation was to be believed, Bernardo Silva had a busy summer.
Before and after representing Portugal at Euro 2020, the Manchester City schemer was supposedly in talks with Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, AC Milan, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur over a potential transfer. There was plenty of interest in Silva from around Europe and the midfielder was reportedly open to pursuing opportunities elsewhere.
That owed to his diminished status within Pep Guardiola’s squad. Bernardo Silva was Manchester City’s outstanding performer when they won the Premier League title in 2018/19. With Kevin De Bruyne absent for the majority of the campaign through injury, the former Monaco man stepped up to fill the void. Yet with De Bruyne back to his best the following season, Silva found starts harder to come by. That was also true last term, before a summer in which City appeared willing to let him go.
Bernardo Silva has responded magnificently at the start of the current campaign. He has started all six of City’s Premier League games, including tough trips to Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Liverpool. He has been the champions’ most consistent performer up to now, demonstrating the breadth of his talent in a more withdrawn midfield role.
Silva is first and foremost a creative player. He is technically gifted and possesses a wonderful left foot. His fine footwork and close control was evidenced by an incredible dribble in the first half against Liverpool on Sunday, when he took the ball past multiple opponents and then set up a chance for Phil Foden.
He completed more take-ons (four) than any other player on the Anfield pitch, and also won the most fouls (four). Foden was deservedly named joint-man of the match alongside Mo Salah, but Bernardo Silva was not far behind.
The 27-year-old is not a languid, foot-on-the-ball playmaker. His aggression and tenacity are crucial to City’s approach without the ball. Silva is always willing to get stuck in and the energy he shows when pressing opponents is infectious. Slightly built and only 5 feet 8 inches tall, Silva never shirks a physical challenge.
Guardiola no doubt appreciates his versatility. Bernardo Silva has played on the left and the right of a midfield three this season. He can also operate on either side of the front three and as a false nine if required. Silva excelled in a 4-4-2 at Monaco and is now doing the same in City’s 4-3-3. If another manager asked him to play as a No.10 in a 4-2-3-1, he would be able to do that as well.
“He’s so intuitive – it’s not his role as a holding midfielder but he knows exactly how to play it and how to anticipate what is going to happen, with the ball or without the ball,” Guardiola said last week. “All I want is for Bernardo to be happy, here or anywhere. All I want is his happiness because he’s a guy that deserves the best. But how well he played against Chelsea is no surprise. How many times have we seen it? He was an incredible signing for us because he’s an exceptional person.”
Bernardo Silva is also an exceptional footballer, and one who will be key to City’s attempts to retain the Premier League title.
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