When Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool has battled Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City for the Premier League title, any dropped points have been potentially costly, even early in the season.
And so, when City reached the hour mark on its trip to Leicester City in September 2021 and the score was goalless, Liverpool fans could be forgiven for feeling ever so slightly hopeful. As so often, though, that hope was swiftly snatched away, with Bernardo Silva scoring what proved to be the winner in the 62nd minute.
Liverpool would go on to beat Leeds 3-0 the very next day to move back ahead of Guardiola’s side in the table, but assistant manager Pep Lijnders was worried. In his book documenting that campaign, Intensity, he shares his fear that City wouldn’t lose many games when Bernardo was involved.
Sure enough, it would go on to pip the Reds to the title by a single point, and Bernardo would be instrumental, making the PFA Team of the Year. Clearly, the Dutchman is a keen admirer, and Bernardo’s Portuguese compatriot Diogo Jota feels the same. Speaking to That’s Football, the Reds forward picked out the City star as the international teammate he’d want to see at Anfield.
“For me, he’s probably one of the most intelligent football guys I’ve ever known and the way he can hide the ball from opponents is special,” he said.
It’s hard to think of a better choice Jota could have made. Bernardo is a player Guardiola relies on in the big matches, and that’s largely down to his mentality. His manager says he ‘loves to play’ in moments of adversity, which makes him an especially valuable figure in the dressing room (via BBC Sport).
Bernardo has been a key individual contributor to some of City’s biggest triumphs, also making the Premier League’s best XI in 2018/19 (when, again, it prevailed over Liverpool by a single point) and the Champions League Team of the Season last year after the club finally tasted European glory.
Beyond that, he boasts a versatility few players can match, comfortable operating as a number eight, number 10 and right winger and even capable of filling as a full-back. That’s largely down to the footballing intelligence both Jota and Guardiola have raved about.
“Bernardo is a football player, he can play everywhere because he understands the game perfectly and every action with and without the ball,” the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss said in April (via the Manchester Evening News).
All in all, Bernardo is a complete player for any elite side, one who can score, create in multiple phases and carry the ball (which Guardiola and Klopp love) but also one who sets an example with a peerless defensive work rate.
Guardiola regards him as ‘irreplaceable’ and ‘one of the best players he’s ever seen’, which may be the ultimate footballing compliment given the extraordinary array of talent he’s coached. As such, signing him would represent an almighty blow to City, but is there any chance?
Well, after a summer of uncertainty in which he was targeted by Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona (via The Mirror), Bernardo signed a new contract last month that runs until 2026. That deal is said to include a modest $64m (£50m/€58m) release clause, but one that’s reserved for Barça (via Mundo Deportivo).
City has sold big names to rival English clubs before, but you’d imagine a stratospheric fee would need to be on the table before it would even consider letting Bernardo join Liverpool.
Besides, the player may not be inclined to make the move after an infamous online spat with Liverpool fans in 2020, when he refused to applaud Klopp’s title-winners as City gave them a guard of honor. Bernardo told the Liverpool fans that had ‘nothing else to do’ but criticize him that they were ‘pathetic’.
For multiple reasons, then, this transfer is almost certain to remain in the realm of fantasy, but you can certainly see why Jota and Lijnders are fans.
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