Bernardo Silva has made himself undroppable for the Blues' biggest games because of his quality and industry, and he is incredibly popular to boot

When Pep Guardiola is invited to praise one of his Manchester City players, he will usually say they need to lay off social media, work harder or focus better.

But mention Bernardo Silva and it’s a different story. Guardiola was asked this week whether the midfielder can be Portugal’s next big star.

"He is the biggest star already,” Guardiola enthused, before launching into a full on love letter that is worth reading or watching in full.

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Sam Lee

Guardiola's glowing praise for Bernardo Silva in absolutely all of its glory. Find you a man etc etc

1:31 AM - Feb 20, 2019
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Given Guardiola recently caused controversy by omitting Real Madrid from his list of the decade’s best clubs, he probably enjoyed the opportunity to forget Cristiano Ronaldo still plays for Portugal.

Ronaldo is of course Portugal’s biggest star, if not football’s. Bernardo could not be more different, and Guardiola probably likes that just as much as all the other stuff.

Pep quote Bernardo

In many ways, Bernardo does not come across as a ‘star’ at all, In fact, he doesn’t even look like a typical footballer.

You’d never catch him walking through a mixed zone in a bad mood, pointing out how many trophies he’s won compared to the team that’s just beaten him, that’s for sure.

It is no exaggeration to say that when he talks in the mixed zone, he will give interviews to absolutely everybody. To the official City website, the televisions, the radios, the daily newspapers, the Sunday newspapers. Even if he’s saying the same thing over and over again, in Portuguese, English, French or Spanish.

Guardiola is not lying, Bernardo really is lovely.

He is not the only footballer to generously give his time to the media (Ilkay Gundogan is also very accommodating at City) but he is the only one who dresses more like a journalist than a footballer.

A Twitter account launched this week breaking down players' outfits and how much they cost. You’re unlikely to ever see Bernardo on there in a £2000 Fendi jumper, though; he dresses like he popped into River Island, picked the most comfortable cardigan and shoes and went back home.

If he looks ‘normal’ by our standards, he stands out in a dressing room full of Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga. His team-mates do not think of his gear and have asked him why he turns up to training in 'pyjamas'. Of course, when City were confirmed as champions last season, at around 6pm in the evening, he actually was in his pyjamas.

It’s reasons like this why he is so often the butt of the joke in the City dressing room. Last season it seemed like there was a new Instagram story every day showing him being teased, frightened or attempting to get his shoes down from the lighting.

It has looked like bullying at times but, as Guardiola said, he is genuinely liked, and is probably the most popular player in the squad. In any case he would have been used to it, given he was close with Benjamin Mendy at Monaco. It was actually the left-back who christened him “bubblegum” - because the ball always sticks to his boots. Curiously, Bernardo has come up with a nickname for another full-back; he calls Kyle Walker ‘Captain Jack’.

“He’s such a good kid, he represents the great group that we have put together,” Manel Estiarte, Guardiola’s right-hand man, says of Bernardo in the book Cuaderno de Manchester. “He comes into the dressing room and you almost want to wind him up because you know he takes it so well.”

Manel quote bernardo

But you can’t just be a nice guy if you want to stay in Guardiola’s team. The Catalan picks his sides on merit and at the moment Bernardo is the first name on the team sheet.

There are so many reasons for that. His versatility and understanding of Guardiola’s tactics go a long way, as does that technical ability that allows him to control a high ball, spin 180 degrees and play in inch-perfect pass in the blink of an eye.

And then there’s the amount of ground he covers. He is one of those players who was once told they were too short to make it at the top level but in City’s huge game with Liverpool in January he was a giant, covering every blade of grass and doing just as much of the ugly stuff as the beautiful. He covered 13.7 kilometres that night, the most in the Premier League this season. The second highest tally is the 13.65km he ran against Tottenham. Not bad for somebody who hasn’t got around to taking his Christmas tree down yet.

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All these reasons make him undroppable right now. With City still fighting in all four competitions, Bernardo is the man for every occasion; having spent the early months of the season replacing Kevin De Bruyne in midfield he is now back in the front three, keeping Leroy Sane out of big games. No wonder Riyad Mahrez can’t get a look in.

Bernardo does not have the number of goals and assists that Sane and Raheem Sterling so regularly provide, and he is not quite as decisive as De Bruyne and David Silva were last season, but in a way he is a blend of all of those players, with a bit of Fernandinho thrown in for good measure.

No wonder everybody loves him.