WHEN Manchester City launched a January transfer deadline day move for Leicester winger Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva’s future at the Etihad came into question.
Even with Leroy Sane out for six weeks with an injury, why would Pep Guardiola launch a £60million move for the Algerian?
After all, he had one of the stars of last season’s Champions League at his disposal. It made little sense.
Leicester turned down City’s approach for Mahrez and the deal was dead just a few hours after it had sprung into life.
Silva, meanwhile, was included in the starting XI as Guardiola’s side defeated West Brom 3-0 later that day.
That game has proven a turning point for Silva and in the past month he’s gone from a gifted squad player to a match-winner for City.
So we asked our friends at Football Whispers to analyse how the 23-year-old has transformed his fortunes at the Etihad.
After Silva starred in Monaco’s surprise Ligue 1 title victory and run to the Champions League semi-finals, the queue to prise him away from the Monegasque club was a long one.
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The race to sign him was expected to drag out throughout the summer, instead City got a deal over the line before their competitors had even lined up on the grid.
They announced Silva’s signing on May 27, 2017, just six days after the 2016/17 Premier League season wrapped up.
“He is a humble guy, so intelligent, which is a huge quality,” Guardiola said prior to the current campaign getting underway.
“Close to the box he has the quality to score a lot of goals.
“He’s a fighter too, and is going to help us during the season. I’m so grateful, thanks so much to the club for picking him up.”
They were effusive words from the Catalan coach but, in the Premier League, starts were hard to come by for Silva.
He was included in the starting XI just six times prior to that game against West Brom on January 31, although when it came to the Champions League he was in the side for four of their six group matches.
Silva was making an impact when given a chance – he had racked up nine assists and four goals when the January transfer window slammed shut.
But it hadn’t been enough to become a regular and given the form of Raheem Sterling, who operates on the right flank too, that wasn’t entirely surprising.
But an injury to the England international, coupled with Sane’s absence, gave City’s second Silva a chance to impress.
He’s certainly taken it. Since February began the former Monaco man has started six of City’s seven games in all competitions, and he’s scored three goals and assisted another.
His strikes have been important too. There was the opener against Arsenal at the Emirates last Thursday prior to his winner against Chelsea on Sunday.
Silva’s style is very different to the man he’s replaced on the right flank.
While Sterling prefers to break in behind defences using his pace, Silva comes infield and attempts to dictate attacks, which is why his goals assisted per 90 stands at 0.33 compared to the ex-Liverpool winger’s 0.28.
Interestingly Sterling plays more key passes per 90 than Silva (1.71 to 1.41).
However, given the Portugal international has often been introduced when games are won, that isn’t entirely surprisingly.
“When he plays he’s been top,” Guardiola last month. “He’s a young guy, a guy in the locker room who we are so happy to have here.
“He’ll stay a long time. While I’m here he will not move on, he will stay with me.
“I haven’t seen him sad, even for one day. He’s always in a good mood; you can’t imagine how important that is.”
And given his recent form and guaranteed place in the team, there can’t be too many people in Manchester in a better mood than Silva.