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At the end of every season it seems as if Bernardo Silva has played his last for Manchester City. The Portuguese winger is a perennial name linked with a move away from the Etihad when the tabloids turn their attention to the summer transfer window. This year is no different. But this time it seems as if Silva really means it.
Depending on who you read, he is either heading for Paris St-Germain, following tomorrow night's Champions League final between City and Inter Milan, or Barcelona, the club with whom his name seems to have been associated with most over the years. Barcelona do not appear to be able to offer the financial package that PSG can but the French giants have already committed to signing Marco Asensio from Real Madrid this month. Club insiders insist that the arrival of Asensio will not impact on any decision to move for Silva. If neither of those transfers were to come to fruition, however, it's not as if the Portugal midfielder would be short of other offers.
Silva is not the first player you might think of when considering what epitomises Pep Guardiola's tactical style but perhaps he should be because he embodies the fluidity required to play it more than anyone in his City team. The 28-year-old collected his fifth league title in seven seasons since arriving at the club from Monaco in the summer of 2016. That is not by accident and Guardiola himself has gone on record with lavish praise of a player who is nominally a playmaker but seems capable of featuring almost anywhere.
It was a point underlined when Silva featured in a hybrid role which included pitch time at centre-back, left-back, holding midfielder and attacking midfielder in a league game for City against Aston Villa in February. His touch map from that game registered 107 and the red dots that accompanied it confirmed that he did, indeed, play everywhere that day.
For his part, Silva says he has added much more to his game under Guardiola. Asked last year to rhyme off the positions he has played in, he said: “I’ve started as a right winger, I’ve played as false 9, I’ve played as 10, 8, sometimes even 6. So when I play right winger I know where I want my midfielder to be, I know where I want my 6 to be to help me. It’s just in the way that I understand the game I think I’ve changed quite a lot.”
That is testimony to Guardiola as much as the player. The Spaniard understands that his playmaker has the football intelligence and physical capacity to play each of the aforementioned positions effortlessly.
These were traits identified early in his career at Benfica, when as a 12-year-old, he stood out as someone who could grasp complex instructions quickly, according to Rodrigo Magalhaes, the club's youth technical director.
“I remember some situations with Bernardo when he was an under-12,” said Magalhaes. “We started to explain an exercise and Bernardo gave us three or four new solutions. The coach thought the players would spend five or six minutes and then he would have to explain, but Bernardo got it in 10 seconds.”
He has been around City for rather longer but has hinted that he now wants a new challenge having achieved almost everything at the club. One achievement has eluded him, though. Whatever happens next a Champions League medal would be a fitting reward for Silva's hugely successful time at City