22 Defender Bayern Munich Spain
Marauding converted defender who now exists somewhere between wingback and an out-and-out winger in most domestic games, and something only a touch more sedate in the rest. Part of Die Roten’s attacking machine, he now has his first Bundesliga winner’s medal and only an injury has slowed him up this year.
2015 has been…
…excellent with a caveat, but we’ll get to that.
One of Pep’s prodigies, it was apparently Guardiola himself who spotted Valencia’s back up left-winger (then in his first season being tried as a fullback) and decided he had to sign him. It’s not hard to see why; Bernat is one of the most eye-catching players on this list. Defensively solid but with a bag of tricks to dip into from his days higher up the pitch, plus pace to burn and a willingness to push on at any given opportunity, this was never a player who was going under anyone’s radar long term.
Such was his case to play, fellow 100 alumnus David Alaba was moved to a holding midfield position to make space and Bernat didn’t need to be asked twice. Bayern marched to last season’s Bundesliga title in near perfect form, scoring more than everyone else, conceding less and finishing 10 points clear, and therein, perhaps, lies our caveat.
While there’s no denying Bernat has been brilliant, domestically Bayern are becoming further distanced from their compatriots with every season that passes. We’re not saying it’s easy, far from it, but there’s simply no way they don’t win the Bundesliga again this year, and we’re going to go on record now and say they’ll win it next year too. Possibly the year after that as well. The gap is growing and there’s a criticism that players are increasingly only really tested in the Champions League. Bernat performed excellently in that campaign, ended in the semis by Barca, but it becomes slightly difficult to judge him doing his day job when 75% of the time you know it’s not a case of how do Bayern win but by how many.
That is not Bernat’s fault of course, and we can’t mark him down specifically for that, but when he you hear him give interviews citing Valencia as “a small club” you hope he realises he may be playing in the best team of his career right now. We hope he enjoys himself.
More of the same, he doesn’t really need to change a thing. Internationally he and Jordi Alba provide Spain with a nice problem to have, Alba is the more rounded player as things stand and by virtue of experience but Bernat’s case is getting louder and louder. He’ll add to the handful of caps he’s already got but that Spanish left-back spot is always going to be competitive, we hope there doesn’t come a point where he lets his standards slip.
Only injury has stopped him in his tracks this year, he only just fell short of the top mark by virtue of Bayern missing the Champions League final, such is the standard by which we have to judge their players. We hope he remains as fun as he currently is, an absolute bottle rocket of a player, we hope he knows when he’s got it good.
B A crash, bang, wallop of a player in a team we have to judge differently to others, key word: Exciting
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