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Man City's own Portuguese star: Breathless Bernardo back to his best

08:00 BST 12/09/2021
Bernardo Silva Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester City Leicester Premier League 2021-22 GFX
The winger, who could have left in the transfer window, sparkled as the champions beat Leicester City 1-0 at the King Power Stadium on Saturday

Bernardo Silva might have preferred to have been in Spain on Saturday afternoon but you would never have guessed it from his performance in Manchester City’s 1-0 victory over Leicester City.

The Portuguese international dropped to the floor at the full-time whistle after another breathless performance when he seemed to be at the right end of every counterattack, whether they came from his side or the hosts.

He was the matchwinner, too, reacting quickly when Joao Cancelo’s shot dropped to him by scooping the loose ball over Kasper Schmeichel in the 62nd minute.

But there were so many more mundane moments that will never make a highlights reel which were all crucial to City’s victory, which keeps them apace with the early Premier League frontrunners.

Just 10 minutes after his strike, Bernardo was the furthest player back when Schmeichel tried to catch out City’s defence with a quickly-taken goalkeeper-kick and he marshalled away the dangerous Jamie Vardy.

With seconds to go, he was chasing Leicester’s centre-backs and forcing them into a mistake that Jack Grealish should have punished. When the full-time whistle blew, he was standing in the right-back position. 

“It is not just the quality he plays with and the incredible runs he has, it's also his work ethic," Pep Guardiola enthused at full-time. “We're happy he's still here and we will see what happens in the future.”

That was a reference to Bernardo’s situation.

While he is happy at City, he wanted a move to La Liga in the summer. The problem was that he was just too costly for Spain's biggest clubs, whose finances have been seriously impacted by the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Barcelona and Atletico Madrid were linked with moves, but a move never materialised and Bernardo remains in Manchester for another season.

However, passion has never dipped, as underlined by the way in which he sprinted to celebrate his goal with the away fans and team-mates, pure joy etched across his face.

"I always try to do my best to help the team and today I was able to do that with a goal, so I'm very, very happy with that,” he said after the game.

"They also had their chances. It's a very tough team to play against. Leicester, for me, are one of the best teams in the league.

“We should have scored a little bit earlier in the first half but we got the three points and in a very tough place to play. We are very happy with the win.”

The second in a tough run of away fixtures to start the season that began with Tottenham and ends with Chelsea and Liverpool, Leicester had pushed City all the way.

The Foxes are so often a barometer of where Guardiola’s side are at performance-wise. Vardy has so often exposed their flaws. Indeed, the Leicester striker has eight goals against City, more than any other striker during his time in the Premier League.

A Community Shield loss to Leicester in August showed City were still rusty, and last season’s 5-2 defeat at the Etihad Stadium, when Vardy scored a hat-trick, resulted in Ruben Dias arriving to sort out a fragile defence.

It wasn’t the first time either. In Guardiola’s debut campaign, Vardy scored another treble in a 4-2 victory, as pundits revelled in the former Barcelona coach being given a bloody nose with a belief that his football wouldn’t succeed in England.

Vardy looked to have added to his impressive tally against City on Saturday but he was ruled offside by inches.

Guardiola was quick to point out that many of his players have made an impact in the early weeks of the season and that it was now Bernardo’s chance to take the spotlight.

"We scored the last 11 goals from nine different players. It's the only way to sustain our level,” he told Sky Sports. “[Bernardo] is back in the best form and mentality. He is an exceptional player and we know it.”

There will be other Portugal stars that will make bigger headlines this season, with Ronaldo-mania again dominating the Premier League.

But Bernardo has been crucial to City securing titles in the past and, having him happy and excited again could yet be vital for Guardiola.