Barcelona's Pursuit of Bernardo Silva Makes No Sense Whatsoever

Aug 11, 2020, 5:30 PM GMT+1
Bernardo Silva
Bernardo Silva has emerged as a potential transfer target for Barcelona | Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

Uh, oh. Barcelona's 'recruitment' team are at it again, people.

As Lionel Messi spearheaded his "weak and erratic" side's 5-0 triumph over Deportivo Alaves on the final day of a bitterly underwhelming La Liga campaign, the state of Quique Setien's substitutes bench for that match highlighted the serious flaws in regards to recent recruitment in Catalonia.

Present in the away dugout at Mendizorrotza Stadium in Vitoria-Gasteiz was a £142m Philippe Coutinho and £105m Antoine Griezmann sat alongside a disgruntled and soon departing Arthur Melo.

But hey, at least they're replacing the talented Brazilian with a declining 30-year-old regista in the form of Miralem Pjanic. Just what they need, eh?

Nevertheless, the almost £250m splurged to bring in two genuine superstars have proved to be shoddy pieces of business.

The Athletic notes that the Barça players were simply left with the impression that the club had overpaid for Coutinho following the €222m departure of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain and have since been proved right, with the former Liverpool star scoring just 21 times in 71 appearances for the Catalonians before being shipped out to Bayern Munich for an indifferent loan spell this term. He now doesn't appear to have even a short-term future at the Camp Nou.

Antoine Griezmann
Antoine Griezmann has unsurprisingly failed to fire in his debut campaign at Barça | David Ramos/Getty Images

The move for Griezmann, meanwhile, was a questionable one from the get-go and fears of an incompatible systematic fit at Barça have been laid bare in the Frenchman's debut campaign despite the odd glimmer of promise.

With scouts alienated - the club, quite remarkably, have held just one first-team scouting meeting over the past year - it's obvious that all is not well on the recruitment side of things in Catalonia and it appears they haven't learnt their lesson from previous misdemeanours.

Reports of La Blaugrana pursuing a move for Manchester City's Bernardo Silva have started to surface, with the Catalans 'ready to tempt' the two-time Premier League winner by offering him a pivotal role in their side next season.

Bernardo starred as City retained their Premier League crown in 2019
Bernardo starred as City retained their Premier League crown in 2019 | Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images

Now, on paper, this may seem like a worthwhile move and maybe even an astute piece of business despite Bernardo's stock dwindling following a campaign which saw him slide down Pep Guardiola's pecking order at the Etihad - just a season removed from his supreme 2018/19 season which garnered the club's Player of the Season award. Overall, there's scope for Barcelona to pick the former Monaco man up in a cut-price deal.

Sure, his minutes may have been eaten up by the generationally gifted Phil Foden in the Premier League last term, but there's no doubting Bernardo's status as a world class winger. Even in a campaign in which he endured a reduced role, the 26-year-old was still often tasked by Guardiola to perform crucial tactical functions in pivotal encounters for the Cityzens. He was occasionally deployed by his Spanish string-puller in an unselfish, interchangeable false nine role against high-pressing and aggressive man-marking outfits - most notably in City's Champions League success against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in February, a role taken on by Foden in the recent return leg.

But, simply put, Bernardo's profile couldn't be further from what Barça need.

David Ospina, Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi spearheaded Barcelona's progression into the Champions League quarter-finals | David Ramos/Getty Images

In short, the Portugal international's a winger who drops deep to receive at feet before generally drifting infield to combine with teammates - Lionel Messi-esque - and his magnetic close control only emphasises the point that La Blaugrana would merely be drafting in a considerably inferior Messi clone.

This isn't what they need.

Since the departure of Neymar in 2017 and recent athletic demise of Luis Suarez, Barça's primary issue couldn't be starker: they don't have any willing runners or outlets.

For some time, left back Jordi Alba's been their chief threat in regards to in-behind penetration; Messi loves to receive in front of the defence, as does Griezmann, while Suarez simply can't offer the same threat as he once did. Thus, greater responsibility has been placed on midfielders Arturo Vidal, Frenkie de Jong and Arthur Melo - pre-Juventus agreement - to serve as runners for this Barcelona side and offer penetrative surges from their midfield positions. A tactical ploy which has led to a disappointing debut campaign for Dutchman De Jong in an unfamiliar advanced role.

Therefore, despite their supreme technical qualities, this is a side easily pressed and squeezed due to the lack of players willing to run away from the ball and stretch the pitch - emphasised by their 51% share of possession in their recent European tie with Napoli. They struggled to keep the ball with the pitch so compact.

Anssumane Fati
Ansu Fati solves a few issues for Barcelona, but he's only been used in a 4-3-3 - a system Setien's recently drifted away from | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Only when destined superstar Ansu Fati's on the field do the Catalans have a bona fide winger capable of hugging the flank and offering bursting runs in-behind the opposition's defence. However, Fati can only be used in a 4-3-3. As of late, Setien has opted to find solutions in regards to his big-name front three by utilising a 4-3-1-2 which is heavily reliant on Alba and Nelson Semedo - a talent they're strangely willing to surrender as part of a potential Bernardo swap deal - to provide width and penetrate as well as supreme combination play and Messi magic to work any openings.

Setien, though, has done his best with a horribly built squad. Instead, the blame lies with the Barça hierarchy and a woeful recruitment policy.

Barcelona shouldn't be targeting a player of Bernardo Silva's profile, they need wingers in the ilk of Serge Gnabry, Son Heung-min, Sadio Mane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Players blessed with these sorts of skill sets.

Admittedly, while it'd make little sense to draft in Bernardo to play out wide, utilising the City man as an interior midfielder is certainly fathomable.

This is unquestionably an area the Catalans may feel vulnerable in regards to depth with the futures of Ivan Rakitic and Vidal unclear, while Arthur is set to evolve under the tutelage of Andrea Pirlo in Turin following his €72m move. Although, Riqui Puig has shone since the restart and there are high hopes for Carles Alena following his short-term loan at Betis loan last season.

Nevertheless, due to his supreme versatility, technique, industry and tactical nous, it's a role Bernardo's starred in for Guardiola; churning out arguably the most impressive individual performance of the 2018/19 Premier League season against Liverpool from a central midfield position, running Jurgen Klopp's then title-chasers into the ground.

Despite this, it's hard to envisage Barcelona drafting in the 26-year-old as an out-and-out central midfielder. Bernardo's a right-winger by trade.

And for all his talent, it's clear that the Portugal international won't offer Setien - or his potential successor - any alternate solutions to an issue which predates the former Betis boss' January arrival. Overall, this is a move that gives off Antoine Griezmann vibes despite the suspected lower fee it'll take to bring the City star to Catalonia.

But hey, you can't put anything past Barcelona's recruitment department. No matter how nonsensical it is.