Football: City must find good fit for Silva

"Little Messi" Bernardo Silva, who came from Monaco, can play anywhere across the attacking midfield line, but is probably the best on the right.
"Little Messi" Bernardo Silva, who came from Monaco, can play anywhere across the attacking midfield line, but is probably the best on the right.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE

Portuguese, who can operate in various roles, seen as first of many pricey arrivals

LONDON • Pep Guardiola began what promises to be a summer of lavish spending by English Premier League football clubs on Friday, striking a £43 million deal to bring Bernardo Silva to Manchester City from Monaco.

The fee is a one-off final payment and the 22-year-old has agreed on a five-year contract.

The Portugal playmaker represents the first of what is expected to be a number of high-profile recruits as Guardiola, the City manager, seeks to overhaul his squad after finishing his first season in charge without any silverware.

Silva, who has long been thought of as destined for great things, is nicknamed "Messizinho", or "Little Messi". But his progress up the ranks has not always been straightforward.

At Benfica in 2013 he found it hard to break into the first team under Jorge Jesus, managing only three substitute appearances.

It was after his move to Monaco in 2014, under the tutelage of his compatriot Leonardo Jardim, that his career really took off.

He scored nine and seven goals in his first two seasons.

But it is in the just-ended season's outstanding campaign, where Monaco won Ligue 1 and scored the highest number of goals in Europe's top five leagues, that he has really flourished as a creator.

As well as eight goals, he recorded nine assists, more than double his tally for the previous two seasons combined.

Renowned for his superb control and composure on the ball in the final third, Silva is capable of playing anywhere across the attacking midfield line, but at present his best position is considered to be on the right, from where he likes to cut inside on his favoured left foot.

With his creativity, diminutive stature and technique in tight spaces, he will inevitably draw comparisons with his namesake David, the Spaniard who he appears to be a long-term successor to at City. Where he fits in the short term, however, is more problematic.

With David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne in the centre and Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane on the wings, City are extremely well stocked for players in the three-quarter positions. Silva does not fill an obvious area of need.

One solution may be he plays as a No. 10, with one of David Silva and de Bruyne, or both, occupying the deeper midfield positions where they have often played last season.

Or he could replace Sterling on the right wing. But, although the Englishman's form in the second half of the season was inconsistent, Silva is a totally different type of winger and Guardiola may not wish to meddle with the dynamism of the established Sterling-Sane-Jesus (or Sergio Aguero) trident.

The £43 million fee would make Silva the seventh-most expensive Premier League player of all time and he will have to deal with the pressure of a huge price tag.

There will also be the question of how well his slight physique will adapt to the physicality of the Premier League.

But Silva's class is not in question and he will be aided by the fact that he already speaks good English and may be joined at the Etihad by his Monaco team-mate, Benjamin Mendy.

And, under Guardiola, that peerless developer of small, technical midfield wizards, he will be working under the perfect manager.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 28, 2017, with the headline 'City must find good fit for £43m Silva'. Print Edition | Subscribe