When Manchester City announced the signing of Portuguese winger Bernardo Silva from AS Monaco in the summer of 2016, eyebrows were raised at the £43m price tag.
Rival fans criticised Pep Guardiola and City for spending big money on a player who only really had one top season under his belt, and wasn’t even a guaranteed starter at The Eithad, with Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané seemingly dislodgeable in the starting eleven.
Yet, supporters of the ever-growing club who announced a club record income and further profits this week, were delighted at the signing of the Portuguese trickster who starred in Monaco’s surprise Champions League run under coach Leonardo Jardim.
From all corners of the Etihad, the winger was an exciting acquisition and fans started to speculate. Although he played predominantly as a right-winger in his opening season, fans had a vision for Bernardo Silva: to eventually be moulded into a central midfield player where he could star for City.
In fact, it was more than become a midfielder that City fans tasked and envisioned Bernardo Silva with, it was to take the reign of David Silva, Manchester City’s greatest ever player.
He first made his name amongst the City fan base in February 2017, during the Champions League clash between City and Bernardo’s Monaco.
Kylian Mbappé’s performances over two legs were heavily dissected as ‘a star was born’, but for many, Bernardo Silva was the shining light both at the Etihad and the return leg at the Stade Louis II, where Monaco played Pep Guardiola’s side off the park.
That performance in the principality of Monaco surely took the eye of Guardiola, who reportedly contacted the Portuguese star.
Fast-forward a few months, Bernardo Silva signed for City, becoming Guardiola’s first signing of a summer that will be remembered long in the memory of City fans, as they added the likes of Ederson, Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker to strengthen weak areas and set them up for a record-breaking season.
Although he made the most appearances for City last season, Bernardo Silva took a few months to get going, only really making substitute appearances in the first half of the season.
In the second half of the season, perhaps helped by the injuries of Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva came into his own, with fine performances against many top opposition that saw him on the scoresheet against Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal to name a few.
This pre-season signified a change for Bernardo Silva, however. After a below-par World Cup for Portugal, he returned to Manchester and was one of the first of City’s sixteen that went to Russia to join the pre-season tour of the United States.
There, Guardiola worked and worked on Bernardo Silva as a midfielder. After some eye-catching displays on tour in the States, it would seem that following a season used to settle into the new tempo of the Premier League, Bernardo Silva was ready for a place in Pep Guardiola’s demanding midfield.
In beating Chelsea 2-0 at Wembley in the Community Shield, his coach was full of praise.
“The performance of Bernardo Silva was a masterpiece,” Guardiola said.
“Right now, it is Bernardo and 10 others.”
“He is so intelligent, he is clever. He is a fighter, a competitor. I think he is the guy most beloved in our team and today he showed me a lot of things.”
Although Bernardo Silva showed promising glimpses at Wembley and in the victory over Arsenal at the Emirates, which included a well taken goal, the performance of Silva yesterday against Fulham was mesmeric.
City defeated Jokanovic’s side with ease at the Etihad, with goals from Sané, David Silva and Sterling, it was Bernardo Silva who was the name on many fans lips leaving the ground.
Bernardo managed five key passes, an 89.7% pass accuracy as well as 5 chances created. A smile could be seen on the face of the player who was awarded man of the match in the stadium.
The little magician, who was nicknamed ‘Messizinho’ when playing for SL Benfica, showed why he earned such names.
After David Silva made it 2-0 to City, I tweeted my joy for the player.
On a personal note, sometimes when I watch players I get a buzz inside. It is very rare and only a handful of players can bring this out of me. Lionel Messi did it when he was making his name at Barca, Kylian Mbappé was another with his performance against Argentina at the World Cup, Kevin De Bruyne against Stoke City when he racked up assist after assist in a 7-2 win, but it is rare.
Bernardo Silva did that. Watching him live at the Etihad yesterday was a pleasure.
I compared him to City’s biggest stars, the midfield partnership that ran the Premier League last season. The midfield partnership that sadly, only has a year or so left. If they had years ahead, there is no doubt they would go down as one of the best midfield duo’s in recent history, along with the likes of Xavi and Iniesta or Kroos and Modric.
Sadly for City fans, David Silva’s career is coming to an end. El Mago will be remembered as one of the greats of the Premier League era, but sadly, it is nearly over and the day of his departure is ever approaching.
But yesterday, City fans showed something that proved to them that Bernardo Silva could take that role and leave City in safe hands for years to come.
His nonchalant touch, his passing ability, the way he drove forward and linked the midfield and attack – just a few things to note from a memorable performance.
“It’s almost impossible to be more pleased as a manager. That’s why he deserves to play all the minutes he’s playing. He’s a good example for us, all the guys”, said Guardiola after the game.
“Thank you so much to Manchester City for buying him.”
The only thing holding Bernardo back from getting full marks and a 10/10 was the fact he didn’t add a goal, missing a couple of chances that he could have done better with.
Soon, David Silva will move on, it will be a devastating day for all concerned with City, but yesterday especially showed that City are in great hands – Bernardo Silva is the heir to the throne that David Silva has reigned from for his eight-year stay in Manchester.