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Portugal a sanctuary for 'devastated' Bernardo Silva following ill-advised Mendy tweet

5:30 PM IST 22/11/19
Bernardo Silva Portugal Manchester City
There has been a drop-off in the playmaker's performances at club level since the Conguitos case but he's been flying for the Seleccao

Bernardo Silva set a very high standard as Manchester City sealed a domestic clean sweep last season with titles in the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup.

The forward was so influential that Pep Guardiola believed he should have been named the Player of the Year for his energetic and skilful contribution.

"He was the best - not just in our team,” the City boss said in May before his player then went on to claim another medal when Portugal won the Nations League on home soil.

Silva was named Player of the Tournament with three assists for the four goals that led to Portugal's success, even upstaging iconic team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo.

That form for his national team has continued with three goals and six assists in six European Championship qualifying games since the summer.

His performance in last week’s 6-0 victory over Lithuania was another masterclass.

He was the standout performer with his exquisite dribbling and precision passing, overshadowing Ronaldo again even though the Juventus forward claimed yet another hat-trick. A few days later his through ball opened the door for Bruno Fernandes to score against Luxembourg.

Ronaldo was named Portugal’s Player of the Year for a 10th successive year but there are many people in his homeland who believe this was the time to move the baton on. Not that Silva will mind. The 25-year-old is the ultimate, selfless team player as showcased by the way he delivers to Ronaldo when others would be greedier.

But while his brilliant form has continued for Portugal, he has not been his usual consistent self for the Premier League champions.

City made a typically good start to the season until a shock defeat to Norwich City in September – a game where Silva failed to have his usual impact and was taken off in the second half as Guardiola tried to rescue the game. Both he and City bounced back in style with the 8-0 victory over Watford when Silva claimed his first hat-trick for the club.

However, the following day an ill-judged tweet sent to team-mate Benjamin Mendy severely disrupted his season.

Silva compared the French defender to an offensive image from a packet of Conguitos – a chocolate brand available in Spain and Portugal. He was charged by the Football Association shortly after and the situation dragged on for another six weeks before a decision was finally reached.

Silva had the threat of a six-match ban hanging over him but will only miss this Saturday's clash with Chelsea as well as being handed a £50,000 ($64,000) fine and face-to-face education as the tweet was not intended to be insulting. But the episode has seemingly had an effect on the 25-year-old with sources saying he has been down over the incident.

He is a hugely popular and lively character in the dressing room – so often the butt of his team-mates' jokes, particularly over his dress sense.

It's all taken in good humour and he and Mendy added a spark and energy to the club when they arrived from Monaco two years ago.

Silva has thrived in Manchester and acclimatised to working under Guardiola, who is equally grateful to have his influence around the club.

But he was devastated by the reception to his tweet, which was intended to be a joke for his team-mate, writing to the FA expressing regret at any unintentional offence, a position supported by Mendy.

It has affected his form with just one assist in his next five appearances before the consolation goal in the 3-1 defeat to leaders Liverpool.

Part of the reason for a lesser impact has been the emergence of Riyad Mahrez, who has stepped up the quality of his performances as a right winger in his second season under Guardiola.

But Silva hasn't been reproducing those incredible performances that were so crucial to City in last season's title race.

The national team has been a sanctuary from his troubles in England as he took a starring role in qualifying for Euro 2020.

Silva was back to his best as he dribbled past Lithuania and Luxembourg defenders and picked apart their backline to ensure there were no qualification hiccups.

It's exactly the sort of contribution Guardiola needs if his side are to have any chance of clawing back the nine-point deficit to Liverpool.