Bernardo Silva continues to be 'perfect' for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City
The Portuguese midfielder shone in City's 6-0 rout of Chelsea to remind everyone of why he is seen by both club and supporters as a vital part of the side in the years ahead
Sergio Aguero, Manchester City’s most high profile player and their greatest ever striker, rightly earned the headlines as his team hammered Chelsea 6-0. City were 4-0 up within 25 minutes and scores of Chelsea fans began leaving soon after.
Chelsea have very good players – Eden Hazard, Gonzalo Higuain, Pedro, N’Golo Kante – but they offered nothing compared to City’s best performance of the season.
Aguero was superb and man of the match. Fernandinho and Raheem Sterling were also exceptional, but it was brilliance from Bernardo Silva which led to the opening goal.
Granted, the Portuguese wide man should not have been left unmarked for Kevin de Bruyne to release a quick free-kick to him, but he dribbled before his pass across the area ended up in the path of Sterling, who fired home.
It was his eighth assist of the season, to go with his eight goals, but such stats do not show his importance to his team.
Silva, one of the best performers in the Monaco team which knocked City out of the Uefa Champions League in 2017, was too good for Marcos Alonso. The gulf was as wide as that between Paul Pogba and Calum Chambers the previous day when City's neighbours Manchester United cruised past struggling Fulham.
Silva, who cost a reported £43 million (Dh206m), is now the first name on City’s team sheet, the one described as “undroppable” by Pep Guardiola who considers him “perfect” in every single game.
Playing wide as he did on the right in the demolition of Chelsea or in a more central role, Silva’s a world class performer, a technically and physically adept player who works as hard in defence as in attack.
He is the prototype Guardiola player: a diminutive quick thinker, focused and supremely fit. He loses the ball as infrequently as Xavi and he has the control of Andres Iniesta.
City fans are in no doubt about his attributes. “He’s got the best first touch of any City player that I’ve ever seen,” declared lifelong fan Steve Craven on the way to the game. “What impresses me most about him is his relentless work rate and recovery of the ball.”
Others agreed with the sentiment.
“He’s the heir apparent to David Silva, that’s sums up how good he is,” is the verdict of veteran journalist Andy Buckley, who covers City for Radio Manchester. “And Silva is up there with Aguero, Bell, Lee and Summerbee.
“Like David Silva, he’s only small but he has the physical strength for the Premier League. A lot of players have fallen by the wayside because they’ve just not been able to mix it at this elite level. He can handle the workload and show his nimbleness.
“He’s a gentleman, a polite individual who speaks perfect English (he attended an English-speaking school in Lisbon) and always fronts up with journalists whether City win, lose or draw. He’s not unlike Juan Mata in that respect. Silva’s going to take some beating if he’s not going to be named player of the year.”
Dave Wallace, editor of the Manchester City fanzine King of the Kippax for 31 years, pointed out that he did not make an instant impact after he joined in the summer of 2017.
“He had a slow start in the Premier League but he’s got everything,” he said.
Wallace agrees that he will likely replace David Silva, who started on the bench on Sunday, which is rare for the Spaniard in a big game, but for now he is happy that both play.
“Never mind gold, we’ve got two Silvas,” he quipped. “Bernardo will likely replace David because along with Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero, we’ll have some rebuilding and freshening up to do over the next few years.”
Season ticket holder Stacy Wright, who is from Salford, adds of Silva: “He was called bubble gum, when he was at Monaco because the ball stuck to his feet. And David Ginola said he was the best player in France in the season before he joined us. I think he’ll be even better than David Silva.”
“He works hard and plays every game,” said fan Karl Beswick, who was forced to miss his team’s best performance of the season by his United supporting wife in order to attend their son’s birthday.
“He gets kicked but he gets straight back up again. His creativity really helped when Kevin de Bruyne was injured earlier in the season. He’s very, very consistent, I can barely recall a mistake he’s made.”
Silva is still only 24, but he has some pedigree. The Lisbon-born man started out at Benfica before his move to Monaco where he played with youngsters of the calibre of Anthony Martial, James Rodriguez, Geoffrey Kondogbia and Yannick Carrasco.
Dimitar Berbatov, for one, could not believe how good his young teammates were. Silva now also has 33 Portugal appearances.
Silva’s contribution to his team will be key to them retaining the Premier League. City may have moved back to the top after comfortably beating a Chelsea team whose form has badly faltered, but rivals Liverpool are equal on points and have a game in hand.
Not everyone is so effusive.
“He cut me up in his Rolls Royce on Chester Road in Stretford the day before the game,” explains Craven. “But I’ll forgive him because he’s so good.”
Updated: February 10, 2019 11:56 PM