SOCCER

Barcelona, ​​Manchester City and the future of Bernardo Silva

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There have been hundreds of rumours, missed opportunities and a transfer or two made. It’s been impossible to have a recent transfer window without reports of potential deals involving Manchester City and Barcelona.

An illustrious list of names includes Lionel Messi and Raheem Sterling, but extends to Frenkie de Jong, Ilkay Gundogan, Ferran Torres, Sergi Roberto and Eric Garcia. Now it’s Bernardo Silva’s turn.

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After the announcement of a friendly match between the two sides on August 24, to raise funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research, Barcelona president Joan Laporta started with a joke.

“It won’t be a friendly match, will it? Are you bringing Bernardo Silva and all your stars? he asked Pep Guardiola.

“We will bring all the ‘big guns’. It will be Bernardo (Silva) and 10 other players in the line-up,” the City manager replied.

Guardiola was later asked about the Portuguese’s future.

“From today I think Bernardo Silva will stay with us,” he said. “Our goal, as a club, is for him to stay. That’s our intention, although we’ve always said we don’t want unhappy players in the team.


Guardiola with Bernardo after City’s FA Cup semi-final defeat in April (Photo: Matt McNulty – Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)

City want to keep Bernardo and believe he will, while Barcelona are suffocated by debt. These two facts make it hard to understand where the potential transfer saga is coming from, but this is the summer market for you.

The rumors did not appear out of the blue. The first to put Bernardo’s name in front of Barcelona was his agent, Jorge Mendes.

On June 8, Mendes dined at the Via Veneto restaurant in Barcelona with club figures such as Laporta and sporting director Mateu Alemany.

Bernardo has been mentioned as a player interested in joining the Catalans’ project. Getting him out of Manchester, however, would require significant work.

To date, City have not received a formal offer. Mainly because Barcelona can’t afford it.

Athleticism understands that the player’s camp is relaxed, realizing that the 27-year-old’s future is in the hands of others. He is enjoying his vacation and is due to report to Manchester on July 11.

It’s the second summer in a row that Bernardo wants to move to Spain, but there’s no sense he’s about to force the decision.

Last year, after being told the move he expected would not materialize, he accepted his situation, embraced Guardiola and enjoyed perhaps his best season in a City shirt.

But, usually, La Liga president Javier Tebas has added some spice to the whole thing.

“If FC Barcelona successfully activates its economic levers, it will be able to sign (Robert) Lewandowski, Bernardo Silva and other players,” he said on Thursday.

It was different from his words in early June – ‘Barca can’t sign Lewandowski’ – which provoked a strong reaction at Camp Nou.

The club’s board was meeting when Tebas’s comments emerged on social media. Shortly after, Laporta received an urgent call from Pini Zahavi, Lewandowski’s agent, asking for an explanation.

Laporta cooled the situation by insisting their hunt for the Bayern Munich striker was still ongoing. Then he lambasted Tebas’ quotes in a public statement.

Lewandowski


Signing Lewandowski appears to be Barcelona’s priority this summer (Photo: Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images)

There was some truth to Tebas’s words though: Barcelona can only make an offer if they release enough money.

Right now, for every €1 spent by Barcelona, ​​they have to get €3 back. They’re pursuing trade deals that could make that a possibility, but it’s far from certain.

City’s position is the same as for any other player: they won’t tie him down to a contract against his will. If anyone on the team wants to leave, they know they only have one thing to bring: a formal offer of market value.

Usually, however, it’s not easy to find. Ask Nicolas Otamendi in the summer of 2019 or Aymeric Laporte and Raheem Sterling last year.

And, after an impressive season, it’s almost impossible to value Bernardo below £80m.

City have already tried to avoid this by testing the waters to give Bernardo a new contract. Conversations began during the final stages of Joao Cancelo’s renewal talks in February, with Cancelo and Bernardo sharing Mendes as an agent.

The club have also contacted Bernardo’s family. All the feedback they received was overwhelmingly positive, underlining how much the Portuguese was enjoying his game and life in Manchester again.

Stylistically, all parties were certain City were the perfect match for Bernardo, but after those informal talks it was agreed that the best-case scenario would be to stick to his current contract at the Etihad, which runs until summer 2025.

This offers a glimmer of hope for Barcelona, ​​but many events need to unfold for them to turn the table.

One thing is to activate their well-documented ‘economic levers’ and secure the arrival of Lewandowski, who seems to be the club’s priority in this transfer window. Then there are the trickier issues of easing their economic pressures with trade deals and selling De Jong.

It’s no secret at Barcelona how much manager Xavi admires Bernardo. The news coming out of the club is that they would push for the Portuguese if De Jong ends up going to Manchester United.

Yet, at the same time, Xavi has been assured that he doesn’t plan to offload the Dutch midfielder at all.

“For me, Frenkie (de Jong) is so important. He is fundamental. But then we have the economic situation of the club. I think De Jong could define an era at this club, but we will see what happens,” Xavi said in May.

If De Jong is only leaving for economic reasons, how would a blockbuster deal for Bernardo happen right after that?

A few weeks ago, voices were raised at Camp Nou asking the current players to lower their wages for another time. How to consider a big transfer in these circumstances?

Meanwhile, Bernardo could be seen on social media enjoying his days off by diving in the waters of the Mediterranean in Saint-Tropez.

It’s quite possibly the best thing a footballer can do when your name is in the spotlight in the summer transfer market.

(Top photo: James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images)

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