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'One of the best players in the world' - Bernardo Silva wanted to leave Man City but now he's 'undroppable'

08:00 GMT 28/11/2021
Bernardo Silva
The Portuguese player nearly left in the summer, but Pep Guardiola is delighted with his impact after an astounding start to the season

“In my opinion, Bernardo [Silva] is one of the best players in the world right now,” Gabriel Jesus said after Manchester City’s impressive victory over Champions League rivals Paris Saint-Germain.

“His quality as a football player is incredible, and he has another thing: he always works so hard.”

Whichever metric you use, City were simply better than PSG on Wednesday night and Bernardo played a pivotal role in their supremacy.

They ran six kilometres more than their French foes, had more shots, 16 to seven, with more on target, six to two, had 54 per cent of possession and completed 76 more passes (596 to 520).

And it was Bernardo that led the charge, whether it was with his hard running, completing a 100% of his 47 passes or having the ice cool composure to delicately set up Jesus for the winner.

“He is a player I love,” the Brazilian enthused. “It doesn’t matter when in the game, he likes to work and have the ball.

“He doesn’t get the credit because he doesn’t score or make assists a lot, but if you watch him play football, you will enjoy it.”

Pep Guardiola loves Bernardo, both as a player and a person.

His attitude and industry are an example to everyone at the club, whether it’s on matchday or in training.

Just as important is his amiability in the dressing room, where he brings a positivity and energy. Indeed, his infectious enthusiasm can be a source of rejuvenation when seasons threaten to turn into a slog.

Kyle Walker recently joked that Bernardo had named his dog after John Stones, while their 'bromance' extended to challenging each other to grow their hair longer during lockdown.

However, it’s on the pitch where everyone is judged and the 27-year-old's form is currently outstanding: he has already won two club player of the month awards and is nicely poised to claim the prize for November too.

There have been sensational individual moments: the assist against PSG; a ridiculous dribble past six Liverpool players at Anfield; a cheeky finish at Manchester United; and an important winner at Leicester City.

However, it’s the all-round contribution and complete performances which have made him “undroppable” in the words of Guardiola.

While City have avoided serious injuries, Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling and Jesus have all been unavailable for various reasons in recent weeks.

Silva has been a constant, as well as being consistent, with only Joao Cancelo making more appearances this season.

What makes that all the more remarkable is the fact that he wanted to leave the club in the summer and would have been sold had the right offer come in.

Italian clubs AC Milan and Juventus were mooted as possible destinations, as was a potential player-plus-cash swap deal with Tottenham for Harry Kane, while his preferred move to Spain never materialised because his suitors couldn't afford to meet City's asking price.

Not one to sulk, Bernardo simply continued to put in the hard yards on the training pitch and deliver high-end performances on matchdays.

He had struggled to find his best form since an astonishing campaign in 2019 when he helped City win the Premier League by a point, prompting Guardiola to label him the best player in the country.

Playing regularly is his preferred position as a right-sided attacking midfielder has helped but he’s also been influential operating as a false nine.

“I'm used to it,” he said after once again taking on the role against PSG. "I just tried to give the best for the team.

"Sometimes you play better, sometimes you play worse, but I always give the best of me for this club. I'm very happy with my current moment and I just want to keep this level.”

Guardiola hinted that he has been much happier in his personal life recently, after feeling homesick for Portugal and Spain, with his model girlfriend Ines Tomaz spending more time in Manchester.

Covid-19 restrictions during the past 18 months were tough on overseas players unable to make flying visits to friends and family abroad, although checks remain stringent around the training ground.

Any decisions on potential future movements can be put on hold for now, and with a contract that still has two-and-a-half years remaining on it, there is no urgency to look too far ahead.

However, for any rival hoping to get him on the cheap, his valuation is unlikely to have gone down given his consistently impressive performances.

“He has always played at a level that is: ‘Wow!'" Guardiola recently enthused. "Hopefully, he can be fit, hungry and competitive to continue to give us what he is doing.”

Indeed, Bernardo staying at the Etihad Stadium could prove a hugely fortunate but incredibly significant 'sliding doors' moment in City's 2021-22 campaign.