Bernard 21 Midfielder Shakhtar Donetsk Brazil
2013 has been…
Pretty damn good. This has been a breakthrough season - a Copa Libertadores triumph, some great goals, a big money move to a patient club where the pressure isn’t all-encompassing, and the chance to do it all while being Ronaldinho’s mate? We’d take that. We’d just take the bit about being Ronaldinho’s mate thinking about it.
During his initial appearances there was something of the underdog about Bernard, all five feet and four inches of him. We all know size makes no difference in the post-Messi era but he looked impish and slight, a modern-day David built for us to punch the air when he triumphed over the six-foot-four defensive Goliath ahead. Quickly it became apparent that this was a player who didn’t need our sense of goodwill to get along, he was rather good on his own thank you very much, and at 21 he already has the full international caps to prove it.
2013 saw him really fulfill early potential and develop an understanding with Ronaldinho that benefited both enormously. The Libertadores triumph was the icing on the cake for a player whose form had seen him discussed with the great and the good on scouting lists worldwide. Unfazed he carried on as headlines were written linking him most heavily with Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund (who reportedly had several bids turned down) and Porto amongst others. Eventually the move came to Shakhtar where the lights may not shine quite as brightly on him as they would in England or Germany, and with their experience of fostering young Brazilian players he will be given time to grow.
So far he has been gradually integrated into his new first team and shown flashes of what’s to come, rarely playing a full ninety minutes but increasingly starting games rather than coming off the bench. He’s already tasted Champions League action and scored his first goal for the club - good progress and early signs are that he is settling well to his new life. Internationally he is also now part of the Brazil squad and with 9 caps already, admittedly most as a substitute, he finds himself in a good position to go to the summer World Cup and possibly really make an impact.
Steady but sure-footed progress hopefully. When writing about Shakhtar in the Guardian recently Jonathan Wilson cited Douglas Costa as a good example of the club’s patient approach to nurturing their Brazilian contingent. They will wait for Bernard to settle and grow into a long-term place in the first team, then look to get the very best out of him in years three and four. They have the experience, they understand the huge change a move brings in the life of a young player, and while it would have been nice to see him at a club in one of Europe’s stronger leagues it may well have been far too soon for him to really shine.
If he does live up to his potential expect Arsenal, Spurs and a whole host of Champions League regulars to be linked almost constantly. He has more than a whiff of something special about him and on form is just a joy to watch. Expect the meteoric rise to halt a little over the next couple of years but don’t immediately think of that as a bad thing; some time learning about all the things that happen away from the pitch as well as adjusting physically on it to a different type of football will serve him well. Huge potential, if he only ever lives up to half of it he will still be a very good footballer.
“A victory for the little guy. Who says you need to be over 6ft? Well, the overwhelming majority of Brazilians coaches, actually – but sod ‘em. Bernard was the revelation of the season during his breakthrough campaign playing second-fiddle to Ronaldinho as Ateltico-MG challenged for the title before going on to claim the Libertadores. The little fella will no doubt continue to improve in Ukraine and may well be running rings around a bunch of athletic giants near you in the coming years.” – Rupert Fryer, southamericanfootball.co.uk
“He’s got joy in his legs,” says Felipão of the former Atlético Mineiro tyro, who brought plenty of happiness to Galo fans during an epic Copa Libertadores run earlier this year, forming a devastating attacking quartet with Ronaldinho, Jô and Diego Tardelli as Galo swashbuckled their way to the title. A hat trick away to Arsenal de Sarandi will live long in the memory, along with the goal he created for Jô in the Brasileirão game against Grêmio last year – flicking the ball over first one, then a second defender before volleying a cross onto the toe of the big galoot. A terrifyingly quick and nimble wide man, Bernard has already pushed ahead of Lucas Moura in the World Cup pecking order, and providing he can maintain his momentum after a move to Shakhtar, will be one to watch in Brazil next summer." - James Young, Tall Coconuts
"Bernard has created a chance every 41 minutes in the Champions League this season; more frequently than Lionel Messi (45 minutes) and Xavi (48 minutes)." - Opta
C+ Trajectory has understandably stalled at his new club but for the right reasons, coming along nicely, good and possibly great things to come