349 minutes is not a long time in football.
Not that long when you consider Vincent Kompany, renowned sick-note, has amounted 360 in just four appearances so far this season. It is fair to surmise, then, that Bernardo Silva has not hit the ground running so far in England.
With a World Cup in Russia looming large only six months away, one of Europe’s most promising young talents from last season looks set to miss out on a place in the Portugal squad. With another lacklustre performance in Europe, it seems time may be running out for both club and country.
The return of the Champions League saw Manchester City labour to a below-par 1-0 win at home to Feyenoord. City went into this tie off the back of a succession of imperious displays in both the Premier League and Europe, knowing that to better Shakhtar Donetsk’s result at Napoli would secure top spot in group F.
Given the manner in which Pep Guardiola’s side have performed of late – with many already suggesting they will emulate Arsenal’s 03/04 ‘Invincibles’ season – one might be forgiven for presuming this would be a somewhat foregone conclusion. In light of this, Guardiola saw sufficient opportunity to rest key players and bring in fringe personnel – most notably the seemingly forgotten man, Bernardo Silva.
For a man who last season played such a vital role in Monaco’s first title win for 17 years, scoring eight and assisting nine, Silva is clearly not a favourite of Guardiola’s and it seems a little odd that more has not been made of his less than accomplished start to life at Eastlands.
Perhaps the fact that the transfer was completed at the very beginning of summer, an age ago in modern football, set the tone for anonymity.
The 23-year-old Portuguese playmaker, bought for £43.6 million back in May, was offered a rare start and an invaluable chance to prove himself against relatively inferior opposition. Having only completed a full 90 minutes once so far this season, the 3-0 dismantling of Burnley back in October, Silva has found opportunities few and far between without garnering all that much attention from either City fans or the media.
To be fair to Silva, he did provide a more effective approach than most involved against Feyenoord. Playing on the right, he looked comfortable with the fluidity and freedom of a Guardiola formation, drifting inside and penetrating the defensive midfield with relative ease.
That said, the final ball continually proved elusive and, against a very ordinary opposition, meant that he had little of the explosive impact that has become the selling point of first-team regulars Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne.
Although at opposite ends of their careers, Silva’s current City career trajectory somewhat echoes that of Nolito’s – who came and left for Sevilla only a season before. While Silva has the considerable benefit of only being 23 to fall back on, the manner in which Nolito’s bit part performances rapidly lead to him becoming the forgotten man should sound a note of caution to Silva.
Perhaps the main issue therefore is no personal fault of Silva. Sterling, who stepped up to thunder home an 88th minute winner, was the only one who appeared remotely of the standard witnessed against Leicester a few days prior – it was an arduous overall team performance. Stirling though, benefits from being in a sensational run of form and not suffering a crisis of confidence as is often the case when not playing regularly.
Added to that, it may be the case that Manchester City are simply too good this season to warrant Silva in the starting line-up.
Upon his arrival in Manchester, it did seem that the main question being asked was: how exactly will Guardiola fit Silva, Silva, De Bruyne, Sané, Sterling, Aguero, and Jesus all in the same team? Put like that, you would imagine that, given the chance, anyone would have to play the game of their lives to even be in with a chance of forcing their name onto the current team sheet.
The reality is that he did not do such and – in a game which saw Yaya Toure roll back the years and amble through midfield posing a relative threat – a promising performance is just not enough.
At this point in the season, it is all far too early to assume that City are home and dry.
Barring the slim chance that they do not slip up at some point, Guardiola’s side will most likely hit a run of poor form – or at the very least they might not be quite as scintillating as they have been so far this season.
In this instance, Bernardo Silva will need to rediscover the kind of performance that saw him play an integral role in Monaco’s title victory and European charge – they were the highest scoring side in Europe’s top five divisions.
No one should doubt he has it in him; he just has to step up to the plate the next time Guardiola comes calling.