22 Midfielder Shakhtar Donetsk Brazil
2014 has been…
…troubling, for a variety of reasons and not all within Bernard’s control. Admittedly we’re not yet at anything like a ten on the Balotelli scale for much of the last twelve months (football’s official unit of measurement for emotional or unhappy players) but at times this has been a very difficult year.
On the pitch he has made reasonable progress, nothing spectacular to get the gooses bumped in quite the same way he had on emerging, but nothing to make you fear for his future either. He still punches above his weight, by which we mean he still defies his stature (all 5 foot 5 inches of it), he still has moments that show you the class within and he still frustrates with a lack of consistency. He’s 22; this is inevitable and forgivable.
He spent the summer at the World Cup with Brazil and while this was cause for celebration, unfortunately he became part of the most infamous Seleção line-up in recent history by making his first start in and then playing every minute of that humbling semi-final against Germany. He emerged relatively unscathed compared to some but his selection meant death by association in the press. He was one of many visibly shaken at the final whistle and you wonder just how long that ninety minutes will live with him. For a young man the aftermath of that game represented the steepest learning curve of his career. His next twelve months need to be about moving on from Belo Horizonte, and that may not be as easy figuratively or literally as he may think.
The troubled year we mentioned hasn’t all been about that one game against Germany. In truth, that’s perhaps the smallest part.
Firstly, the political and still volatile situation in Ukraine has led to a very unsettled player. This is completely understandable but the openness by which Bernard has once refused to return to the country and then when back talked about having an exit plan should he feel the need to leave quickly has done nothing to endear him to his club. We won’t get into the politics of the situation but here there are two sides to the story, both with what they see as quite valid claims to being right.
Secondly, before the troubles, during and right up until this month’s press there are the constant rumours of a transfer. The player had done little to commit before the summer, refusing to comment on his future, and since the World Cup it has become clear there is a move being engineered. There are those phrases in the press that only come from an agent looking to move his client on – “scouted by [insert Champion’s League club here]”, “strong interest”, “ambitious” etc – and Arsenal are consistently linked with either a loan or full transfer. Liverpool and Spurs are also known to be in line and Tottenham were rumoured to be very close to signing him in the summer. When transfer speculation is so consistent and so specific to certain clubs you know a proportion of it must be coming from the player’s own camp. Fans aren’t stupid and it’s clear Bernard’s time at Shakhtar is coming to a close.
The final nail would his own manager’s decision to go public with his feelings on the player’s attitude. When asked about Bernard’s extended absence after the World Cup’s end, Shakktar’s head coach Mircea Lucescu slammed his professionalism. “The way he behaves is not normal” he said, “in 40 years of coaching I have never encountered a situation like this”. He then questioned whether Bernard’s “place is in Western Europe or Brazil”. This prompted a less than reverent reply from Bernard via the bastion of measured comment that is Twitter. Messy isn’t really the word.
So the “what next?” is a transfer, and it’s not so much an if as a when. Bernard is very talented and that’s in danger of being lost, particularly as his club situation is now damaging his international selection at a time when in Dunga (a man not known for his tolerance of inconsistent playmakers) he now has a new manager to impress. He needs a fresh start, we hope he gets it soon and starts again. Still has vast potential, now needs an environment to flourish.
“Bernard’s in a difficult place at the moment and it is very hard to see a way back at Shakhtar. Stranger things have happened but you feel it’s a broken relationship now. I still think he’d struggle with the physicality of the Premier League in truth, but a change of circumstances may be just what he needs to really kick on” – Dave Hartrick
"Bernard provided his first assist in European competition in September, in what was his seventh Champions League game, feeding Luiz Adriano to score against Porto." - OptaJoe
D May seem harsh but the mark reflects the huge talent not currently being utilised, and a year’s worth of uncertainty around his future
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