Bernardo and David: Manchester City's two pieces of Silva
Manchester City signed Bernardo Silva for £43 million last summer. The Portuguese midfielder had his breakout season at Monaco in 2016/17, helping the French side win Ligue 1 for the first time in 17 years as well as reach the Champions League semi-finals.
Silva played as an inverted right-winger, drifting inside to take up a number ten role at times. He was instrumental for Les Monegasques, contributing to 20 goals in the league and Europe. His performance attracted many admirers, including managers of some European heavyweights. Pep Guardiola led the pursuit.
The former Barcelona coach realised Bernardo would suit Man City's possession-based playing style. Teams often sit deep against the Citizens. As a result, Kevin de Bruyne's exquisite long passes and David Silva's close dribbling ability are both vital in breaking down defences.
David, however, is approaching his twilight years. At 32, he has only a few more stellar seasons left in the Premier League. Guardiola thought ahead, bringing in a similar type of player.
Bernardo had a difficult start at City. Before December, he made 20 appearances but completed the full 90 minutes only seven times. The 23-year-old was forced to play deputy , with the in-form Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling both preferred. His place at the Etihad came under scrutiny. Just a few months after arriving, rumours linked him away.
Due to Premier League fixture congestion, Guardiola gave Bernardo a start against Swansea City following the Manchester derby. The Portugal international thrived, pulling strings in midfield and registering an assist. During his next nine appearances, he recorded two more assists and scored three goals.
David Silva was rested in the FA and League cup games. Bernardo took up the mantle. He also delivered a run of excellent performances against Basel, Arsenal and Swansea to showcase his mercurial best.
In Bernardo's hometown, Lisbon, he's known as 'Bubblegum' because of how the ball sticks to both feet. Neither well built nor pacy, his sublime ball control, agility and trickery make him a special talent. A fantastic set-piece taker, he often runs the channel inside the right wing. The creative midfielder also contributes defensively. He loves to tackle, win back possession and start counter attacks.
Bernardo has an important role with his national team, too. His performance stood out at the World Cup, despite suffering last 16 elimination. He didn't score or assist. Rather he created. His ability to dribble past opponents and find teammates were both notable attributes. Unfortunately, Portugal's squad was unbalanced, or else he could have run riot in Russia.
Next season, Guardiola should continue setting up in a 4-3-3 formation. A Man City midfield three of Fernandinho, De Bruyne and either David or Bernardo Silva. The latter can also feature on the right wing, allowing central midfielder Ilkay Gundogan further opportunity. Sterling had an electrifying campaign last time out, but the Portuguese playmaker offers more depth and versatility.
David Silva's speed and unpredictability can't match Bernardo's. The Spaniard must soon give up his throne. City already have the perfect successor. Guardiola must keep him at all costs.