The inevitable rumour roundabout linking Real Madrid midfielder Isco with a departure from the Bernabeu has returned and thus, naturally, so too have the reports that Manchester City are interested in acquiring his services.
In truth, City’s biggest concerns lie far from the frontline; those back behind the attacking trident and the two central midfielders are in serious need of an upgrade.
The acquisition of Isco would almost be a superfluous luxury. The Spaniard was dubbed to be the perfect replacement for his compatriot David Silva over three years ago. Yet the mercurial midfielder has expectedly excelled under Pep Guardiola; his dribbling, ball retention and passing ability accumulate to make him one of the best in the world to fit into his new manager’s philosophy.
But Silva, along with many of City’s other core players, is rapidly ageing and despite a late career resurgence, Guardiola will undoubtedly be looking to recruit long-term replacements.
17-year-old Brahim Diaz is excelling at youth level, despite battling it out with players several years his senior – something Guardiola has understandably acknowledged. The exuberant City coach recently implied that three or four youth players have caught his eye and could feature in his pre-season tour this summer.
Yet he will have to utilise those young stars available at his disposal in a tactful manner; ready-made summer signings are to be anticipated.
Many proclaimed Isco to be the next in line to David Silva at the Etihad, but perhaps now the natural heir to the magician’s throne could actually be his namesake, Bernardo Silva.
It was almost impossible to overlook the meteoric rise of the Portuguese playmaker this season and City’s defeat at the hands of AS Monaco over the two legs of the Champions League round of 16 was the epitome of his talent.
Almost everything positive from the French outfit came through him. His passing, crossing and dribbling is akin to City star Kevin De Bruyne and if Guardiola will continue to utilise two creative midfielders alongside a deep dictator next term, he could do far worse and little better than a duo of De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva.
It is no surprise that the 22-year-old has been touted with a switch to several of the most elite clubs in Europe, with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United reportedly interested.
8 goals and 8 assists in all competitions this season for Monaco might not be particularly striking, but the potential is evident for all to see. He tormented the City backline and assisted the opening goal in the second leg – a perfectly placed pass to Kylian Mbappé.
Perhaps finishing is the midfielder’s biggest area for improvement – City fans will point to the stark enhancement of Raheem Sterling in front of goal this year as evidence that Guardiola can assist in that department.
However, fan favourite David Silva would admit himself that one slightly weaker aspect of his multifaceted playstyle is his finishing ability. Likewise, the similarities between the two Silvas are obvious too. The ability to retain the ball under extreme pressure despite often being, at least physically, dominated and weave a way through defenders where very few would be able to find a path is admirable. The ball almost appears glued to the foot of both players at times.
That vision also extends to passing too, unlocking the defence at key moments to create something from nothing, a goal from nowhere. Futher still, the capacity to maintain top speed whilst dribbling creates the illusion of a swift player when, in reality, there are plenty faster. The skill and flair that both possess is another point of comparison, often bringing the ball to a halt, luring in defenders and then proceeding to beat them via a pass or dribble.
As with Isco, the signing of Bernardo Silva would potentially be unnecessary and perhaps even imprudent. More prominent are the issues with Guardiola’s goalkeepers, fullbacks and central defenders. Further still, with Yaya Toure expected to depart, a replacement midfielder capable of dictating and dominating the tempo of play would hardly go amiss.
But Guardiola said that he would play with 11 midfielders if he could – one Silva replacing another doesn’t seem so bad – and after all of the Blues’ goalkeeping woes, I am absolutely certain that Bernardo Silva’s passing ability will enable him to play with his feet between the sticks if called upon!