The capture of Bernardo Silva means that it can be said with relative certainty Manchester City mean business this summer. Memories of warm months spent dithering around and ending up with Fabian Delph or Scott Sinclair are set to be eclipsed this close season as City launch themselves into the transfer market with serious intent.
Manuel Pellegrini and Roberto Mancini’s summer sprees were blighted by the restrictions of UEFA’s once popular Financial Fair Play legislation, which brought City’s enthusiastic squad building to frequent standstill.
In the wake of a tearful farewell to stalwart full-back Pablo Zabaleta, the club has announced in quick-fire succession respective farewells to goalkeeper Willy Caballero, Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy and Jesus Navas. Although expected, the speed and finality of the announcements fair took the breath away.
The widely accepted problem positions of goalkeeper and full-back have been culled immediately. With rumours rife that Tottenham flier Kyle Walker and Monaco sensation Benjamin Mendy are on the verge of arriving, City’s clear and invigorating upgrade is well underway.
Fear not, however, that Pep Guardiola is allowing practicalities to get in the way of fantasy football, for his first signing is the kind of forward-moving skill merchant that many would say the club already has the copyright on. Joining Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, David Silva, Leroy Sane, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling; Silva is a gem of a player, who will more than likely be seen as a long-term replacement for Silva.
The Spaniard’s namesake, like Mendy, has been an integral part of Monaco’s searing success and is the kind of talent that the Catalan evidently cannot resist, despite the massive armoury of creative talent already at his disposal.
However, what on the surface may seem like deep overkill on the creative front, the truth is a little different. David Silva, long City’s main creative source and a one-man instrument of chaos behind the front runners for City, is probably considered to have one more really top season left before a gentle decline in power sets in. Without Silva, City’s creative momentum slowed remarkably last season, as — despite the wealth of talent — there was no one else to carve out chances in the way the Spaniard did with monotonous ease.
Bernardo Silva has the capability of doing just the same and more when Silva is rested or injured. Having showcased his remarkable talents in the Champions League tie at the Etihad last February in a pulsating 5-3 City win that had seen Monaco leading the way in a first half that the visitors’ Silva had taken by the scruff of the neck, Guardiola’s mind was probably made up there and then.
Bernardo Silva eventually faded in that game allowing David Silva to wrest back control and turn a sumptuous game round in City’s eventual favour. The 5-3 scoreline, greeted with a standing ovation at the end, proved insufficient in stopping Bernardo Silva and his talented teammates in the return leg in the principality. City’s season was at that point on its last legs. Defeat against Arsenal in the semifinal of the FA Cup would knock the final wind out of their sails.
Rejuvenation and renewal is — one short month after the Wembley defeat to Arsene Wenger’s side — already in the air and what a rejuvenation it is going to be. Guardiola is planting an indelible seal on his work in Manchester. With John Stones (22), Sterling (22), Sane (21) and Jesus (20), the club is not only hoovering up undoubted world-class talent, but is also shepherding the best of the next generation through the Etihad portals. To complete the list, Bernardo Silva and Mendy are also both 22. Add talent such as Marlos Moreno (20) and Patrick Roberts (20) and City have the look of a club with long-term sustainability at the top sharply in their focus.
Without simplifying the newly acquired Silva’s likely input to “David Silva Mark II”, the Monaco midfielder shares the ability to open up the tightest defences, but is more likely to do it with a sharp burst of pace or a slaloming dribble than David Silva’s neat pirouettes and eye-of-the-needle passing. He will also bring another commodity that Silva often lacked: the ability to contribute goals.
The newcomer can bring vitality and creative drive to a variety of positions and will fit into Guardiola’s system with ease. His arrival may mean the displacement of Sterling or Sane, but it will also mean the City bench becomes a platform for top layer talent rather than last season’s home of rest for ageing full-backs.
In short, what seems to be a luxury signing will surely come to be seen as a masterstroke. A Silva as heir apparent to a Silva may offer tight lexicographical symmetry, but it will be nothing to the dynamism, trickery and pace the newcomer will bring to City’s forward armoury. The competition for next season’s Premier League title just got a degree or two hotter.
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