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From Creative Winger To All-Around Midfielder: Bernardo Silva

Although Manchester City conceded three beautiful goals at Etihad, a two goal-different win were making them an advantageous side for France. It was Pep Guardiola's first Champions League experience with City. The factor that was not taken into account when coming to the match was an early Monaco goal. Minute 8. Benjamin Mendy's cross is rejected by John Stones, the ball falls in front of Bernardo Silva. Bernardo sent the ball to the penalty area without waiting, and Kylian Mbappe, who has become a phenomenon these days, was scoring the goal.

The side that left from the match happily became Bernardo's side and exactly 2 months and 11 days later Bernardo Silva was signing a contract with Manchester City. When the star creative winger, who is no stranger to this team and even one of the stars who eliminated this team from the Champions League, came to the team, he thought that the creative winger position would be his role but with so much competition he had to fight for the shirt.

Bernardo Silva has always been the main hero of plot twists. He was born in the good half of a country like Portugal whose economic position is likely to live in two extremes. Bernardo, who entered the Benfica youth system of which he was a lifelong supporter at the age of 8, was nicknamed Messizinho and Little Messi are the ones of the nicknames that will follow him for years in this amazing academy. Since he stepped up on the pitch, as a little child he has always been in front of the spotlights in Benfica which is like a genuinely young talent academy club. Little Bernardo, who started to prove his maturity by joining the Benfica B team in 2013, was winking at the A-team.

One of the plot twists started right here. Jorge Jesus' Benfica won the Portuguese Bwin League with just two losses, played in the final in the UEL, and took the Taça de Portugal to their trophy cabinet. Although the team had a great season, there was a complaint coming from fans and the club was the insignificant minutes given to homegrown players. Bernardo Silva was one of those who had inevitable fate. The young star, who got only 31 minutes in 3 games, was deciding to leave the team.

Jesus even tried to fashion a left-back out of him. The club did not want to give up immediately. They were accepting the loan offer from Monaco. Although Bernardo was upset about leaving Benfica the club that he was a lifelong fan of, France and his career was waiting for him. On the other hand, Jorge Jesus won the Portugal Bwin League 14-15 also for Benfica, but he signed with Sporting CP that same summer, breaking the hearts of many Benfica fans.

Leonardo Jardim and the Monaco union had begun rebuilding. The team lost two of its most valuable players in the summer of 2014, James Rodriguez and Falcao. Now it was time to renew. Even maybe Monaco couldn't find a better one for this than Jardim.

Like Bernardo Silva has claimed that he owes a lot to Leonardo Jardim, who is more like a father to him than just a former coach. In his words: "Personally, Jardim has given me a lot,” Bernardo Silva confirms. "He works well with young players. He saw I was young and gave me the opportunity. In my head, I felt different. I've improved within just 3 months of joining the French club.” Monaco added 9 new players in the summer of 2014 to its squad. Just one is above the age of 25 in the new transfers was Maarten Stekelenburg who is signed to fill the hole about bench goalkeeper.

The team was getting younger and was starting to value young people. Bakayoko and Bernardo were the duo that would mark this team. This rebuilding started to show results from its first season, Bernardo was showing a performance that wants to use the option to buy his performance by convincing Jardim and Monaco in just 6 months. A winger who had ten goals and four assists from his first season could not go unnoticed. Jardim's youth but the dynamic team was hopeful and made Monaco believe that they were going in the right direction. Continuation of the transfers came in 15-16.

As the young stars began to get used to the team, Monaco forced the second-place spot in the league. Bernardo was about to become the main star of this team. By solving his problems on the right-wing this season in the number ten zone, actually in this way he was showing the first pieces of the tactical flexibility Pep works especially in today. After that season with seven goals and three assists, Kylian Mbappe from the youth team and Radamel Falcao, who returned from two unsuccessful loan spells in England, came and joined Monaco. Having come on the shoulders of Martial the previous season, Monaco now has two incredible forwards.

Image from Getty Images.

Now Jardim's team needed to make a splash. Rebuilding was enough for this team to be the top candidate at the end of 2 years. Monaco wins Ligue 1 in 2017, and in the Champions League reach the semi-finals, beating Manchester City in the last 16. Bernardo was the main star of this team. Although Jardim used to 4231 from time to time, Monaco was actually a team that played 442.

In setups like the 442, it is very difficult for winger players to score. In this winger game setup, wingers are much more away from the goal than 4231 or 433, winger players are generally expected assisting to the strikers. Bernardo, on the other hand, was a very special player, awakening Falcao from two unsuccessful England periods who produced thirty goals and seven assists, as well as marking the season with 11 goals and 12 assists. As soon as the season was over, Bernardo was caught in the net of a new rebuilding team.

In his first season with Pep Guardiola, Manchester City would go through an intense transfer period due to the difficulties they experienced against teams that were waiting deep in both defence and offense. Before June came, Manchester City transferred Bernardo Silva for 50 Million Euros. The Portuguese star was feeling at the peak of her career. He was wrong.

Manchester City gave a great start to the season and started the league with an unbeaten streak of 22 matches. While City was doing so well, the wingers definitely had to have a share in this rise. Sane and Sterling had an incredible start to the season, while Bernardo played just 4 of those 22 games in 70+ minutes.

In addition to the rising performances of the names in front of them, the Portuguese star, who tried to overcome the language barrier, became the bench move of the team and his coach this season. The Portuguese, who came from the bench and made nine goals and 11 assists, was not worried about his role as Kompany's word “A half clown, a half captain” for himself, but it was obvious that such a talent still wanted to take minutes on the pitch. By this time he was finding time in the rotation of the right-wing, but Pep was insistent on unravelling teams that were deeply defensive.

With the arrival of Mahrez on the right-wing at the end of the season, rumours began to spread that there were problems between Bernardo and Pep. was there any problem? The media was wrong.

Image from Getty Images.

Liverpool caused a lot of trouble to the Centurions at 17-18 and signaled that they would be the biggest rivals next season. Especially with the great effect of Virgil Van Dijk, who came in January 2018, the Liverpool threat came to spark more. While such an opponent was coming, Manchester City's star playmaker Kevin De Bruyne suffered knee ligament damage on 15 August. In addition to that, David Silva and his wife's children Mateo, who had a very painful birth process last season, also had health problems. It was one of the toughest times for the City.

Pep's solution to this situation would mark that season. In the creative part of the game, he needed to get a contribution from the center in addition to the wings against his deep-block opponents. The issue of how to do this was the dilemma. Despite the possibility of De Bruyne's injury ending early in the first weeks, he also tried double-striker setups, but Pep wanted to solve this issue genuinely now. He found the solution in integrating Bernardo Silva into the central midfield. Bernardo provided incredible domination in the midfield in the absence of KDB, who missed a total of 21 games.

The leftover defensive qualities from Jardim's 442 have proven himself well this season and have made the team rise. Anyway, Liverpool were having a fantastic season. Even this performance might not be enough.

The match that marked the season was the Liverpool game played at Etihad. While everyone remembers John Stones with the ball off the line, the second part of Pep's portrayal of Bernardo was definitely in this match. Bernardo Silva, who we've seen until that time so far as a creative right-winger, has played in the 433 right centre midfielder since the start of this season. Against Liverpool, Guardiola commissioned Fernandinho with him to disrupt Liverpool's transitions in the centre duo. Also, City, who came out with the ball from behind, was expected to have passing stations.

It was perhaps almost impossible to show creativity for a role like this because of doing so much defensive effort. Klopp's Liverpool doing an incredible gegenpress and did not let their opponents coming out with the ball from behind. Pep's team, on the other hand, started the match with a double centre pivot. Not only did Bernardo and Fernandinho get their team out of the press, but also Bernardo Silva also provided Aguero's assist this season, as if it were his signature.

Bernardo, who we saw working like a bee for a long part of the match, the real surprise was made by the statisticians at the end of the match. Bernardo Silva broke the season's record with a running distance of 13.7 km. Pep also made a statement after the game rewarding this performance: “Bernardo Silva did everything. He is the smallest one but shows us that to play football you don't have to be taller or more physical.”

This season, with Kevin De Bruyne missing 29 games, Pep's team was scoring 95 goals, and giving Liverpool the second place title with the highest score. Bernardo, on the other hand, was crowning his defensive effort in the central midfield with 13 goals and 14 assists in 51 games.

Image from MEN.

The 19-20 season started very chaotically for City. Kompany left the team, while Fernandinho was one year older. Manchester City, which had problems with the centre back last season, suffered an injury that would lose Aymeric Laporte for a season, just 3 weeks after the end of the transfer window. City also signed Rodri from Atletico de Madrid to solve the problem in the centre area, but Rodri has never played a single pivot role in front of the defence at any point in his career.

It was very difficult to be a part of a team that had a habit of playing 433 from a team that played in the 442 formation. This role would prove to be much more difficult, especially in teams like City, which getting possession more than anyone else and used to play with two creative players in front of the single pivot. Pep wasn't going to apply to Bernardo as much as last season to relieve him of his central role this season.

Maybe this was a mistake. Kevin De Bruyne was returning, looking to further increase productivity at the front. But City had problems with both of defence and midfield centre, and Pep barely applied to Bernardo in central midfield. Manchester City were the victorious side in 9 of the 11 matches they played with Bernardo. While there were so many setbacks, Merseyside's Red side had an incredible start to the league.

When so many mistakes and setbacks came together, an inevitable end came and Liverpool closed the season with a well-deserved championship, which was between the pandemic. The City have to bounce back from here. Because if you are in the deep, there is no way to going to the up.

The City entered the 2020-2021 season with the addition of Ruben Dias. Laporte was returning from injury, while Stones was starting to in the form. But City's centre midfielder problems continued. It was the first season that Pep didn't add any new additions to his wings on the front line because of amazing Phil Foden.

Although the number of wingers was sufficient, the lack of a natural 9 was problem that City still suffers today. Aguero was getting old and struggling with injuries, while Jesus was injured at the beginning of the season and could not contribute enough.

When Jesus gets contact with the ball, he wants to be in the wing with the ball and wants to turn his face to the goal but not the connection game. Although there was an entry that had overcome its defensive problems, it was the first time that City had a defective team in production, especially with the departure of David Silva.

On the other hand, Guardiola had to solve both the pivot problems and the productivity problem on the front line. The critical choice of this season came from Pep AGAIN. After the strikers dropping out, Pep started playing with a double false 9. Here again, Pep started to play with Bernardo, who is an emergency button for the club. They were putting so many players in the striker zone in the game that there had to be a named to pick up the back.

Gundo found himself in this system, achieving incredible goal numbers who was the top scorer of the last season for the City and shooting numbers, but for this system to be sustainable, the midfielders had to make a continuous defensive contribution and Bernardo Silva was both productive in the future, shooting from the penalty area and covering the fields behind. In addition, this system gave Kevin De Bruyne incredible freedom and expanded his comfort zones.

Still, the three key players of this system were Gundo, Bernardo, and Cancelo. Pep wasn't just doing it from the front also he was using his fullbacks as false backs, sometimes with Zinchenko and sometimes with Cancelo, saving Rodri from the single-pivot role he couldn't play. In this way, he could break the front area presses of the opponents and not be left behind (except one match against Manchester United). Such a flawless plan won Manchester City the league three times in four years. He made it to the final of the Champions League. And more like these.

Image from MEN.

After all of these years, Bernardo Silva not only made a difference with the distances he covered in the defensive part of the game, with the third field presses he made but also turned into an incredibly productive player as most players could not. The ability to pick up and carry the ball deep is one of these features. It is a great honor to watch such a player who has one of the most important qualities to come out of the pressure. We're so lucky to watch your performances, Bernardo. Thank you.

Enes Güntekin // @ScoutPremier