It seems Bernardo Silva has not had a change of heart over his Manchester City future this season. If anything, he appears to be wanting to leave even sooner.
Last summer, Bernardo asked for a transfer away but with no acceptable bids received, City made it clear he would stay for the season. In response, he’s reached the heights of his 2018/19 Player of the Year campaign with some stunning form. It’s arguably more than City could have expected in the circumstances.
Now, though, Bernardo has spoken this week of returning to Portugal in a ‘year or two’, and earlier this month suggested he remains unhappy in Manchester. And that throws City into an awkward position.
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“I miss Portugal a lot,” he said this week. “If I could go back in a year or two, I would. Not only because I would like to play for Benfica again, but because I miss my family and living in Portugal very much.”
It’s entirely reasonable for Bernardo to want to return home, especially after two years of lockdowns and restrictions in England. City have always made it clear to players that if they are not happy and want to leave, they can do.
Ferran Torres suggested he also struggled to adapt in Manchester before returning to Spain, while Leroy Sane also sought a transfer back to Germany. It’s fair to accept that not every player coming to the club from abroad will love Manchester as much as the locals.
The problem with Bernardo’s situation is there might not be a club able to offer him a return home that he requires.
If he wants to return to Benfica, signing Bernardo for a significant amount of money doesn’t appear to fit their usual transfer abilities. Given how strongly Bernardo has spoken about Benfica (and also against rivals) Sporting, another Portuguese club may also be out of the question.
Unless City were going to slash their asking price for Bernardo, he might not get the fairytale return to Portugal any time soon. City won’t sell a world-class player like Bernardo for less than he’s worth, even if that player appears to be a genuinely nice person with a perfectly acceptable reason for leaving.
Bernardo signed for £ 45m in 2017, and still has three years left on his contract. At the very least, City would want to recoup that £ 45m, and could very well double their money if he was on the open market.
Maybe a move to Spain could offer a compromise, with a similar lifestyle to Portugal, a better league, and easier ways to see his family back home. Barcelona have well-publicized financial problems, but can still find £ 60m for Ferran Torres, while Real Madrid love to make big signings – even if it looks like they are after Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland this summer.
Unless something changes, Bernardo may be forced to see out the remaining three years on his contract at City. If this season is anything to go by, he would do that professionally and with no drop in his high standards on or off the pitch.
“I will always give my best for this club as long as I stay here,” he said earlier this month regarding his request to leave last year, before offering an update on what could happen this summer.
“At the end of the season, I’m going to sit down with City and see what’s best for both sides. We’re in the middle of the season and we want to win a lot of important trophies. “
When that conversation does happen, City will have to decide how much it is worth keeping an unhappy player, and how much they would be willing to help Bernardo get the exit he clearly still wants.
As it stands, there is no obvious solution to keep all parties happy.
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