The 2015 UEFA U21 European Championships came to an end a few weeks back with tournament outsiders Sweden beating Portugal on penalties to lift the trophy. Portuguese powerhouse William Carvalho was named player of the tournament, however, another Portuguese starlet had plenty of admirers.
Every generation Portugal produce a world-class player whose talent shines above the rest. Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo and the late Eusebio are just a few to shine for Seleccao das Quinas and it seems a certain Bernardo Silva is the next in line.
Twenty-year-old Silva was among the dream team of the tournament. The Monaco midfielder was outstanding as he helped Portugal top Group B. He dictated play against England, Italy and Sweden and was easy on the eye when in possession of the ball. Without the ball, Silva found pockets of space in threatening areas that allowed him to create chances. His ball control and first touch were sublime and his ability to pass long and short is just another strong point to his game.
In the semi-final, Silva really came to life. He played his part in a 5-0 demolition of tournament favourites Germany. Despite only playing 50 minutes, Silva did enough to be named man of the match. Portuguese manager Jorge was able to take him off at 4-0 leaving Silva fresh for the final. He played at the tip of the diamond in a striker-less 4-4-2, and quite frankly ran riot. He opened the scoring with a powerful left footed strike and his selflessness shone through as he provided his teammates with a number of opportunities.
In the final against Sweden, he was quieter than any game previously. The disciplined defence of the Swede’s prevented Silva from controlling the game; they were quick to close him down and limited the amount of space he was given. Despite being hassled, Silva managed to produce moments of magic throughout the game. A real credit to his maturity and ability that with all the focus and attention the Swedes gave him he still managed to be effective.
As previously mentioned, Silva has a fantastic range of passing. Across the whole tournament in all games Silva had a passing accuracy of 90.1% which, for a player playing in attacking midfield and as a false 9, is an extremely high percentage. Due to the creative responsibility of the role the player is expected to be the creative outlet and play defence splitting passes. Although his only goal came against Germany, he created six clear-cut chances for his side, a figure that could easily have been higher.
He drifts across the pitch effortlessly combining with wingers and full-backs, and has the ability to beat his marker. He was fouled 11 times throughout the tournament, these fouls usually occurred in high areas. His footwork is mesmerising and his trickery make him a nightmare to defend against.
Monaco took up the option to sign Silva from Benfica following his loan in January for €15.75million and on reflection of his performances throughout the tournament it looks a bargain for the Ligue 1 club. It will be a huge surprise if he doesn’t join Portugal for Euro 2016 and continue to progress with his career. He's an exciting talent, that's for sure.
By Callum Read – @