There are few current Manchester City players as loved by the fans as Bernardo Silva.
Whether it’s his wand of a left foot or his incredible vision, his never-say-die attitude or that song sung in the stands, City fans never stop talking about him.
Yet despite being a fan favourite, if Jack Grealish arrives at the Etihad Stadium then it could be the Portuguese star pushed out the door.
City will need to balance the books to complete deals for Grealish and/or Harry Kane, and in the prime of his career at 26-years-old, Bernardo is an attractive option for potential suitors.
Granted, he hasn’t lived up to the heights of his 2018/19 season, but Bernardo still has an awful lot to give. Here's why he must stay:
City recovered from a slow start last season to win a fifth Premier League title, but what was noticeable was the drop-off in their high pressing approach.
The Premier League title wins of 2017/18 and 2018/19 were built on a system of relentlessly pressing the opposition when out of possession in order to force errors and regain the ball.
Bernardo was central to this and in 2018/19 especially he became Pep Guardiola’s go-to man.
He revealed a tough, hard-working defensive side to his game not seen before, as he charged around the pitch like a heat-seeking missile locked onto its target.
The dramatic 2-1 win against Liverpool in January 2019 was perhaps his best performance, a unique blend of relentless pressing and magician-like passing.
The work ethic the midfielder showed that day cemented his cult-hero status among Citizens, and he quickly became the benchmark by which to judge other players’ performances.
Eye of a needle
The reality of having a wealth of attacking talent is that City often come up against low-blocks and tightly packed defences.
When that happens, overlapping runs from full-backs and balls over the top can prove ineffective. Sometimes, the supernatural vision of a creative genius in and around the box is the only solution.
Back in the day that was David Silva’s remit, but today it’s Bernardo’s.
Yes, City do have other locksmiths, but they either prefer to run and break into space (like Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling), play deeper (like Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan) or haven’t yet reached their peak (like Phil Foden and Ferran Torres).
When it comes to a fleet-footed creator who can pull off cute dinks and slide-rule passes in the penalty area, Bernardo fits the bill.
Bernardo is every manager’s dream, in the sense that he is capable of playing anywhere in the attacking half of the pitch.
Over his four years at City he has more often than not played on the left of a midfield three, but he has also been deployed on the right, in the centre of a four-man midfield and even on the wing in an attacking trio.
Some players struggle to replicate performance levels in multiple positions, but Bernardo is no ordinary player. Wherever Guardiola asks him to play, he’s just as creative and dedicated to the cause as ever.
While a section of City fans may dislike him now, the departure of James Milner in 2015 was a big blow for the Blues for similar reasons. Like Bernardo, the Englishman was effective across the midfield and always gave his all.
Jacks of all trades are hard to come by; City would do well not to discard of another.
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He gets it
It may sound cliché, but Bernardo gets what it means to be City.
Since he signed from Monaco in 2017 he has frequently been spotted around Manchester on his days off and has never been one to shy away from interacting with supporters.
City fans love him, and while he may begrudge not getting more playing time, Bernardo loves City. Player-supporter relationships are hugely important to the success of any top club.