Pep Guardiola isn’t an easy man to please, so the Manchester City manager’s assertion that it is “impossible” to be happier with Bernardo Silva is a testament to the Portuguese midfielder’s breakthrough in his second season at the Premier League champions.
City’s record-breaking campaign last season owed much to the class of Kevin de Bruyne. But in the Belgian’s absence due to a long-term knee injury, the wealth of options on offer to Guardiola is paying off through both Bernardo and namesake David Silva.
Both players had very different struggles despite City’s success last season.
Bernardo played his part in eliminating City from the Champions League with Monaco in Guardiola’s first season in Manchester, but had to be patient after making a £43mn ($56mn) move to the Premier League as the outstanding form of De Bruyne, Silva, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling limited his starts.
A year on, De Bruyne’s injury has offered him the chance to play regularly as the creative hub of the City midfield and Guardiola was uncharacteristically gushing after Saturday’s 3-0 win over Fulham.
“It is almost impossible to be more pleased as a manager with him,” said Guardiola. “He is skinny, small, but he is wow!.
“He deserves to play all the minutes he plays. I don’t forget the behaviour he had last season when he played a lot but didn’t start. I don’t forget that behaviour in front of his teammates. He’s an example.”
After a performance hailed as a “masterpiece” by Guardiola in City’s Community Shield win over Chelsea last month, the Catalan claimed his starting line-up “right now, is Bernardo and 10 players more.”
Alongside him as City’s latest quest to win the Champions League for the first time begins at home to Lyon today will be the elder Silva.
The Spaniard has been liberated to enjoy his football once more after a harrowing five months in the latter part of last season as he jetted between Manchester and his homeland to visit his pre-mature born son.
Born in December, Mateo Silva was finally released from hospital in May.
“It was really tough,” Silva told the BBC. “It was so difficult with him being in hospital for so long, you can’t stop thinking about it.
“Besides he was in Spain, meaning I had to travel a lot and I could hardly train
“I didn’t sleep much, I wasn’t eating well. But, luckily, the team was doing really well and that helped me a lot.”
Fast forward to last month and Mateo was in attendance at the Etihad as his dad scored a sumptuous free-kick in a 6-1 rout of Huddersfield.
“It was very special”, said Silva. “The best moment of my life.”
Another goal followed against Fulham on Saturday, his 50th in the Premier League. As City celebrate a decade under the ownership of Sheikh Mansour, few signings have had as big an impact as Silva’s eight years ago in transforming City’s fortunes.
A decade in, City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak warned as City’s revenue broke the £500mn barrier last week “our journey is not complete and we have more targets to fulfil”.
In a decorated career, Silva has won three Premier League titles, two European championships and a World Cup. But the Champions League has eluded his and City’s clutches.
The first step towards justifying their status as favourites for the competition and completing Silva’s set of honours begins today.
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