Le50 2016: Bernardo Silva – AS Monaco
Just as it has been a frustratingly stop-start season for Monaco, so too has it been a campaign lacking any particular rhythm for Bernardo Silva.
The Portuguese attacking midfielder was one of their shining lights offensively last term, and with the likes of Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco departing last summer, it was anticipated that the former Benfica man would take up even more of the slack this time around.
But the 21-year-old has failed to live up to the billing and, while a formidably talented performer, continues to be let down by his product in the final third of the field.
There have been glimpses of brilliance, of course. One particularly impressive slalom against Caen in March saw him carry the ball past a couple of challenges in close proximity before inducing an own goal, but the tangible sum of his efforts does not equate to the rich potential he possesses.
“Last season I didn’t start well but I finished strongly. This season didn’t start as I wanted either, but I want to finish the campaign as I did the previous one,” he explained to L’Equipe in early March.
Regardless, it will be hard for the Lisbon-born player to recreate his numbers in terms of goals scored or in assists created. Rather than a season of progress, it has been one merely of consolidation for a young man Monaco splashed €15.75 million on during January 2015 to make his loan move from Portugal a permanent one.
Even after a relatively modest campaign, it does not seem money badly spent – at least not yet. He landed at the Stade Louis II from relative obscurity, and so he is used to answering questions about his ability.
“When he signed, I had never heard of him,” Valere Germain, on loan at Nice from the Monegasques this season, told So Foot. “Monaco were buying some big names, so when he arrived from Benfica B we asked questions.
“From his first training session we understood we had an extraordinary player. He’s got incredible talent. He’s someone who’s reserved, who smiles all the time.”
Despite a somewhat disappointing season, which was not aided by an injury sustained in the finals of the European Under-21 Championships last summer – although he was named in the team of the tournament – the lithe attacker is in line to achieve one of his big goals for the campaign.
“I have two targets for the campaign: to play a great season with Monaco and to go to Euro 2016,” he explained back in November.
In hindsight, the former was a little ambitious. The injury he sustained on international duty forced him to rest for a month when he should have been taking part in pre-season, and his inability to prepare properly for the season ahead has left him susceptible to a series of niggling injuries since. Even after scoring on the opening day of the season against Nice, he confessed to having doubts in his fitness levels, having been rather rushed back.
Moreover, his performances last term meant that more was expected of him by critics, something the player himself has admitted. Indeed, Bernardo seemed well braced for a potentially challenging second season in France.
“The players know me better, so it will get harder. This means I have to raise my level,” he said.
Leonardo Jardim has tried to manage his young charge’s game time as well as possible, and as such he has flitted in and out of the side along with fellow promising attackers Thomas Lemar and Helder Costa, most frequently on the right side of the midfield. The coach is a stoic fan of the player, having brought him to the club and then instilled confidence in him by saying that the team plays better when he is on the field.
And Bernardo Silva continues to command many other admirers, too. He was linked with Juventus and Chelsea in December, while he remains firmly in the plans of Portugal boss Fernando Santos, who included him in the squad for recent friendlies against Bulgaria and Belgium.
The Euros could, therefore, prove to be the catalyst this undoubtedly talented player needs to take his next big step up.