What a night it was in the UEFA Champions League, with 14 goals being scored in two Last-16 first leg ties. Manchester City shared a 5-3 thriller against French side AS Monaco whilst in Germany, Bayer Leverkusen suffered a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Atletico Madrid.
Fans tuning into Manchester City’s game with Monaco from around the world got to witness some of the attacking talent that both teams had on display. However a lot of fans already know a lot about the world class quality possessed by City’s Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling before heading into the game. It was Monaco’s offensive players who had their opportunity to make a serious name for themselves in a big game on a big occasion, and they certainly managed to do that against a poor City defence.
Thomas Lemar, Kylian Mbappe, Tiemoué Bakayoko and even Radamel Falcao, a man who had a very anticlimactic 2 years in England, played exceptionally well on the counter attack and created lots of chances for themselves.
A performance that really stood out for me was of Monaco’s 22 year old Portuguese right winger Bernardo Silva, a player that had received a lot of media coverage days prior to the game, linking him with Europe’s top clubs who are desperate for the young mans signature.
Starting his career coming through the Benfica academy, Bernardo Silva was showing strong signs of his potential whilst playing for the B team in the Segunda Liga back in the 2013-14 season. He played 38 games, scored 7 goals and in his debut season won him the Breakthrough Player of the Year award.
AS Monaco were quick to acquire the services of Bernardo Silva in 2014-15, seeing the huge potential and taking an opportunity to develop his talent further in a one year loan deal. By January 2015, AS Monaco had reached an agreement with Benfica to sign Bernardo Silva on a 4 year deal for just €15.75 million (£13.3m).
Now in his 3rd season with Monaco, Bernardo Silva has played 89 league games, scored 22 goals and made 11 assists. He has also scored 2 goals in 13 Champions League games (not including Champions League Qualification ties).
So what is it that is making him so valuable and highly rated? For me, it is his ability to pick out teammates with key passes and being able to keep possession of the ball when dribbling and being pressured by the opponents. This was very much the case against Manchester City, particularly when he was able to retain the ball, nutmeg Yaya Toure and play a beautifully weighted through ball into the path of a Monaco teammate running in behind.
Another question you may ask is, how come people are only just starting to take notice of him? A huge factor in my opinion has to be his withdrawal from the Portugal squad for Euro 2016 due to injury. Missing such a big tournament which can really help young players make a name for themselves was not ideal for Bernardo Silva.
Not only that, Portugal went all the way and upset hosts France in the final, meaning Bernardo Silva not only missed out on lifting a trophy, but also making a real name for himself in the footballing world.
His contract is due to expire in 2020 however, now that interest is expected to increase further after tonights excellent display in the Champions League, big money bids are very likely to come in for the Portuguese man, with reports claiming that both Manchester United are Chelsea are preparing bids in excess of £70m.
I’m sure I can conclude by saying that not only are fans and neutrals alike looking forward to the return leg of this enthralling tie so far between AS Monaco and Manchester City, but are also looking forward to having another opportunity to watch Bernardo Silva. And who knows, we maybe getting plenty of opportunities next season if he decides to make a switch to English football.
UCFB Etihad Football Business & Media Student,