Monaco’s run to the Champions League quarter-finals this season has brought Les Monegasques’ top talents to the attention of Europe’s biggest clubs.
Teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe is the name on everybody’s lips at present, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Thomas Lemar are being courted by a clutch of the Premier League’s top sides, while left-back Benjamin Mendy is also receiving plenty of publicity.
Bernardo Silva is another gem currently earning admiring glances from some of the continent’s superpowers, and it is easy to see why.
The Portugal international has eight goals and eight assists from 43 games across all competitions this season but his statistics alone do not even begin to tell the full story of his incredible talent.
Had Silva not been cruelly struck down by injury before last year’s European Championship in France, there is a good chance the 22-year-old would have already left the picturesque Stade Louis II having starred for eventual winners Portugal.
However, the Lisbon native’s misfortune has been Monaco’s gain and Leonardo Jardim’s group are benefitting from another season of their No.10’s excellence.
Silva often features on the right of his compatriot’s preferred 4-2-2-2 formation and is given licence to roam as a playmaker, usually in and around Mbappe and a reinvigorated Radamel Falcao – with Lemar providing plenty of ammunition from the left.
The Benfica youth academy graduate’s value to his team and charm to viewers does not lie in what he contributes for his side on the pitch, though, but more in the way he delivers it.
Silva is a rare breed in modern football. Like Paris Saint-Germain playmaker Javier Pastore and Shakhtar Donetsk wing back Darijo Srna, he is the type of player that has largely been driven out of the game in recent years yet he has personally managed to adapt and finds ways to showcase his brilliance.
The Portuguese schemer is an artist surrounded by athletes and often has to out-think his physically more imposing opponents in order to influence proceedings for club and country.
Silva’s great attraction is his grace, elegance and the sheer beauty of his style of play. Like Pastore, he doesn’t bustle past opponents with pace or power, he dances around them like a ballerina thanks to a combination of delicate touches and an impressive footballing IQ.
Le Championnat is renowned for having well-organised teams that largely consist of powerful players with considerable speed but it has proved to be the perfect breeding ground for Silva, if less so for a fragile Pastore.
Silva’s success under Jardim on the Cote d’Azur is testament to the fantastic job done by ex-sporting director Luis Campos, who has since left the club to join the newly formed Lille OSC project that will bring cult favourite Marcelo Bielsa back to France this summer.
When Monaco initially brought Silva in on loan from Benfica back in the summer of 2014, nothing much was expected of him. In fact, many were under the impression that he was a defensive midfielder but it quickly became apparent this was not the case.
Although his first half of the 2014-15 Ligue 1 season was not that impressive, ASM wasted little time in exercising his €15.75 million buyout clause during the winter window and a second half of the campaign that brought nine goals and two assists in domestic matches proved it was a shrewd move.
Silva has gone from strength to strength since 2015 and had he not been scythed down by injury last summer, he might well have already flown the nest. However, he remains on Le Rocher for now and Jardim’s men are all the better for it.
German champions Bayern Munich are now being linked with an €80m move for him. If it happens, it would once again emphasise the stunning nature of the Monegasque project and their ability to recognise talent early on and add substantial value to it.
Monaco’s clash with Dortmund promises to be one of the most exciting encounters of this term’s Champions League and Silva should be able to bless both knockout legs with his elegant touches,
Assuming Bayern do not firm up their interest if Monaco dump out their German Bundesliga rivals, then there will no doubt be a number of other top European sides desperate to sign this footballing artist.