The overhaul at Manchester City has begun and it is not an incoming transfer that is reflective of this. It is the number, quality, and age of the City players whose contract comes to an end at the end of June, which signal the change that Pep Guardiola is ushering in.
Pablo Zabaleta, Willy Caballero, Gael Clichy, Jesus Navas, and Bacary Sagna are all names that a few years back would have been considered worthy signings for a top four side in the Premier League. In fact, they all were decent to great signings for Manchester City. Now at the end of June, every player in that list other than Zabaleta will be a free agent (as of now). Zabaleta is heading towards the London Stadium at the age of 32. All these players are above 31 years of age and they are no doubt a part of the revitalizing program that Pep Guardiola has started this summer at the Etihad.
But it is Manchester City we are talking about. For them only departures cannot tell the story of an overhaul. Star signings have to arrive at least at the same rate at which star seniors leave. Apparently, one of these arrivals is likely to be AS Monaco’s Bernardo Silva, who has just won the Ligue 1 with the team from the principality. If the furiously churning rumor mill is to be believed, Silva’s arrival at Etihad is imminent as the player himself seems to be in Manchester – some say to negotiate a deal and others believe for a medical. Perhaps by the time this post is published it may be a done deal as well.
Whatever is the level of interest and completion on that transfer, on the face of it, it seems a highly symbiotic deal. Let us explore why.
The Club’s Requirements
Manchester City have just let go of two right wing players – Jesus Navas and Bacary Sagna. So, it stands to reason that they would be looking for one or two replacements on the right wing. Although Pep already has at least a couple of players who can play upfront on the right wing – including Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne, adding one more explosive winger on the right is not a bad ploy. Also, Pep has recently favored De Bruyne in the no. 10 position behind the striker, meaning that only Sterling is a good right winger in his side. As a result, having another 22-year old who also likes to cut in, makes some sense.
Moreover, if that winger is a young player who can be coached in Pep’s methods but is developed and experienced enough to possess all the necessary skills to follow his guidance, it makes even more sense. Further, if this transfer can be completed at a price lower than what the market estimates for such a player, it is even better. If the deal goes through, it indeed is a good one for Manchester City and Pep.
Bernardo Silva has come up in the Benfica academy in Portugal. From Benfica, he joined Monaco on loan in August 2014. His performances at the start of the 2014-15 season prompted Monaco to buy him outright in January 2015. Since then he has been a regular part of the Monaco team.
In Ligue 1 this season, Silva has had 33 starts and 4 substitute appearances, scoring 8 goals and providing 11 assists, at the rate of a goal contribution every 147 minutes. He has also scored 3 goals and assisted one in Champions League (including qualification) this season. In total, for Monaco this season, he made 58 appearances in all competitions, scoring 11 goals and assisting 12.
Key Strengths and Weaknesses
Silva’s key strengths include his ability to create shooting chances for his team mates. For Monaco, he provided 3.2 crosses every 90 minutes at a success rate of 43% i.e. he provided approximately 1.2 successful crosses every match. This combined with the position from which those crosses were delivered – high up the pitch on either side of the opponent’s penalty box (primarily right), makes him quite effective.
His passing and crossing skills along with his vision to play accurate long passes allow him to provide 0.8 key passes every 90 minutes. In terms of shooting too he is a pretty good player – with 0.64 accurate shots per 90 minutes. That kind of shooting rate allowed him to score 0.2 goals per 90 minutes for Monaco this season. He makes himself quite useful in defense as well as he put in 1.2 ball recoveries, 3.2 interceptions and 2.61 successful defensive duels per 90 minutes.
Overall, he is a very busy player getting involved in 97.8 events per 90 minutes and 2/3rds of those events are positive for him. This must be music to Pep’s ears as Silva slots perfectly into the kind of player he generally looks for.
CIES Football observatory reflect these data points in their ratings of Silva’s strengths. As per them, Silva’s best attribute is his chance creation (82/100), then take ons (76/100) and distribution (63/100). They also give him decent ratings for shooting (55/100) and recovery (46/100).
They assign a much smaller rating of 20/100 for his rigor i.e. his “ability to minimize goal opportunities for opponents through robust dueling”. They seem to be attributing this weakness to his weak aerial ability. Silva got involved in 2.2 aerial duels per 90 minutes with only 27% success rate.
His aerial ability seems to be his only weakness as per the data available as he is also good at keeping the ball, dribbling (7 dribbles per 90 minutes at 84% success rate), and pass accuracy (88%). No wonder, he has been getting more games at Monaco than what was estimated for a 22-year old midfielder by CIES Observatory. While he is expected to have appeared in 95 league matches, he has already appeared in 140 of them.
However, nothing gives an indication of his ability as much as his estimated price by CIES. They expect his price to be €65.8 million. The rumor mill is suggesting that City might get away with paying €60 million (£43 million).
Overall, this transfer, if it goes through seems to be a match made in heaven. Manchester City and Pep get a great young talent who possesses the exact skills that Pep values. Bernardo Silva on the other hand, gets to play in a more competitive league, in front of more spectators and under a great manager. Manchester City fans will be hoping fervently that Silva indeed ends up at Etihad.