Of all the decisions Pep Guardiola has taken at Manchester City, cutting Bernardo Silva’s holiday short in 2018 has to be one of the best.
Shortly after celebrating a record-breaking 100 points to go with their Premier League title, 16 Blues headed off to the World Cup to leave City with a chronic shortage of first-team players for their pre-season preparations; Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez were the only players in the touring squad that jetted out to the States that could be considered first team regulars.
Bernardo had only had a few weeks of holiday after Portugal’s last-16 exit when he was promptly whisked over to New York, the only member of the World Cup group asked to do so. The former Monaco star had not had the brightest of debut campaigns but Guardiola believed that he could give the squad a lift for the initial games as the rest of the players worked their way back to full fitness.
It went better than anyone could have dreamed. Not only did Bernardo hit the ground running but he never stopped and even managed to make up for the loss of Kevin De Bruyne for most of the year. To anyone who watched the team that season as they won three titles and were on course for a quadruple until that agonising Champions League exit at the hands of Tottenham, their best player was obvious.
Unfortunately for City and Guardiola, success is rarely guaranteed with such a move.
Kyle Walker started strongly that season but fatigue got the better of him as winter hit, causing him to be dropped at Christmas after one poor performance too many. Bernardo couldn’t repeat the trick this season either, with the mental and physical strain from his previous campaign that was extended with Portugal at the UEFA Nations League not helping his bid for consistency in the most recent campaign.
Yet that elusive 2018 example, where everything clicked for the player, has to be sought again as the Blues gear up to another pre-season where rest will be at a minimum. While they have been granted 30 days between their Champions League exit to Lyon and Premier League opener, international duty will likely mean most of City’s players will have less rest than their club would prefer.
With that in mind, Guardiola will have to think again about which players he can back to give his side an early lift and which will need easing back into the team. When the manager plans, Bernardo from 2018 will remain the textbook example of what he hopes will happen but it is impossible to know how it will work out.