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Bernardo Silva will become a Manchester City great, given time

Slow-burning City, slow-burning Silva

Manchester City’s courtship of manager Pep Guardiola went way beyond the announcement he would be leaving Bayern Munich in February 2016, five months before arriving in England. City’s Abu Dhabi-based, mega-rich owners, who bought the club almost a decade ago now, saw what the Spaniard was doing at Barcelona and began negotiating in 2012, just after he left the Camp Nou.

Guardiola and this City era’s growth began almost at the same time, back in 2008. As Sheikh Mansour finalised the purchase of what were then very much Manchester’s underdogs, their current boss was starting his top-level managerial career. But their success rates are completely different; the club are still on a quest for Champions League glory, something Guardiola would achieve in just one year, before amassing a further 15 trophies in the four years before he left.

The man who hired him at Barcelona was also the man who brought him to England. Txiki Begiristrain is City’s sporting director and a former teammate of Guardiola from their days in Catalonia. Given the appointments in both the boardroom and dugout, it is clear the model City would ideally like to emulate.

Upon their first approach, Guardiola, who intended on a yearlong sabbatical in New York, knocked them back. He then spent three years in Germany with Bayern Munich before, eventually, moving to the Etihad Stadium in 2016. The conditions were much worse for immediate success then, because four years earlier, when Roberto Mancini led them to a maiden Premier League title, their squad was in much better shape than it was when Guardiola inherited it.

Vincent Kompany, the captain, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and David Silva, who have all played major roles in Guardiola’s stint so far, were all in their prime and would have been even more effective had he taken over then. They are no longer the spine of the team, though, and the ageing squad has generally needed refurbishing, but finding the right men to fill their boots long term has been a real challenge too.


The Two Silvas

Guardiola has been criticised for spending heavily and not winning anything in England, but he has had to revamp and develop a whole new set up. The contingency plans are in place with the likes of John Stones replacing Kompany and Gabriel Jesus most likely following Aguero. David Silva’s heir is already in place too, though City fans are having to be a bit more patient as his namesake, Bernardo, signed from Monaco this summer, waits to make his mark.

The Portuguese international was among the most exciting players in Europe in one of the most exciting teams last season. He played a key role in winning Ligue 1 and reaching the semi finals of the Champions League, knocking City out in the last 16. It is easy to understand why City had paid £60million for him and why his arrival generated such a buzz; he has everything Guardiola looks for in a creative player and it isn’t out of the question he could become the main man in the side soon.



Usually, paying so much for a player makes them a guaranteed starter, but not for Manchester City. After becoming the first team to spend over £200million in a single summer, they can certainly afford to leave out some of their expensive purchases. David Silva may not have gone off the rails since that first Premier League winning season in 2012, but at 31 he is getting older and, as a player in a crucial position for the way Manchester City play, it was thought he wouldn’t last too long under Guardiola. But he remains a regular, still going strong as a centrepiece.

During the week, Guardiola was asked about the use of the counter attack in English football. His answer gave an insight into his way of thinking; rather than surrendering possession, which some believe is the most effective way to play on the break, he expects his players to rest on the ball and press with extra energy when it is lost. At Monaco, Silva played on the right of a midfield four performing a similar duty, and although his role at City will be more central, he still has the exact ingredients to become a vital player.



Three games have shown that Guardiola is really making an impact now. Having beaten Liverpool 5-0 last week, they scored four past Feyenoord in the Champions League and followed that up with a 6-0 win at Watford on Saturday. What has seemed like a bold, risky strategy, playing 3-5-2 to accommodate as much attacking quality as possible, now seems to be paying off and the balance is right.

Breaking into that team is going to be rather hard for the new Silva on the block, but his future at City is still very, very bright. If a clear sign of Guardiola’s long-term commitment to the club, beyond even his current three-year contract, was needed, bringing Silva in is just that. At 23 years of age, he is primed to take his opportunity whenever it should, but time is on his side as David continues to impress.

For too long, Manchester City were a reactive club, not a proactive club. They allowed their squad to age and their most important players had not been replaced by sufficient quality. It may take some time, but Bernardo Silva will eventually become a star as Pep Guardiola looks to repeat the success of the squad City originally wanted him to take charge of five years ago.


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