Bernard: Brazils Most Wanted

Posted on May 28, 2013

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Brazilian attacking midfielders have become hot property in Europe over the last decade, Ronaldinho lit up European football for the best part of the 21st century with PSG, La Liga giants Barcelona and then AC Milan, winning the Fifa World Player of the Year award twice in 2004 & 2005, with a Ballon d’Or in 2005 thrown in for good measure.  Compatriot, Kaká established himself in Serie A with AC Milan also winning the Fifa World Player of the Year award in 2007 along with the Ballon d’Or in the same year before moving to Real Madrid.  The individual success of these two modern greats leaves a lot to live up to for Brazil’s up-and-coming protégés.

Fans of the Premier League will be all too familiar with Oscar of Chelsea and Philippe Coutinho of Liverpool.   All three have made dramatic career strides since joining from their respective clubs in Brazil and all are part of a generation of attacking midfielders which promise much for the national team.  The two Brazilians are similar in their style of play as well as physical stature, slight of frame with fantastic technical ability and dazzling footwork.

Both Oscar and Coutinho have been particular highlights of the Premier League season just gone, which, let’s face it, was a disappointment.  Oscar has had a very promising season for the Chelsea first team making 34 appearances, scoring 4 goals, creating 7 assists along with 47 scoring chances for his team overall.  Since Coutinho’s move to Liverpool in January he has made a total of 13 appearances, scoring 3 goals, creating 7 assists and a total of 20 scoring chances for his team.  Not bad going for two players aged 21 and 20 respectively.

There is another player in a similar mould to the aforementioned two and he is currently plying his trade in the Brasileirao (Brazilian National League) for Clube Atlético Mineiro.  Bernard Anício Caldeira Duarte or simply Bernard as he is known in his native land has enjoyed a breakthrough season for Atlético in 2012.  The young playmaker was in impressive form as he tore defences apart with his tenacity, skilled dribbling and clinical finishing.  It was a shock to many in the Brazilian media that he didn’t make Brazil’s Olympic squad or even the full national side during the 2012 domestic campaign.  Despite finishing Atlético’s top scorer ahead of ex-Manchester City forward Jô and the Brazilian legend Ronaldinho he was overlooked.

However, perseverance has proved to be one of Bernard’s defining traits.  He was released several times by Atlético as a youth player due to his small stature, but this did not deter the industrious midfielder.  His attitude towards the game manifests itself on the pitch as the playmaker doesn’t shy away from his defensive duties, tracking back and putting a tackle in where necessary.  His energetic displays make him a valuable addition to the Atlético squad.

Ronaldinho signed for Galo in June 2012 from Flamengo and a partnership with Bernard blossomed almost immediately after the veterans’ arrival.  Atlético’s season went from strength to strength, culminating in a second place finish in the Brasileirao.  The two compliment each other’s game well, Bernard provides the hard leg work with and without possession, allowing Ronaldinho the freedom to roam and play his natural game with the ball at his feet.  However, Bernard’s contribution to the Atlético team is not just confined to pure running.  The youngster has all the flicks, tricks and deft footwork associated with other Brazilians such as Neymar, Oscar or Coutinho.

His performances for Atlético finally earned him the call up to the Brazilian national team in September 2012, but he didn’t make his debut until November in the annual match between Brazil and Argentina, the Superclásico de las Américas.  Bernard was most recently included in the squad for Brazils 2013 Confederations Cup campaign and it is widely believed that his inclusion came at the expense of club team mate Ronaldinho.  According to Bernard himself, Ronaldinho congratulated the youngster on his call up to the squad, SambaFoot quoted Bernard in Lancenet:

“Ronaldinho, he arrived today and congratulated me, he is happy.”

Therefore, cementing a strong relationship between mentor and apprentice.  For Bernard to get the call up to the Confederations Cup squad over his teammate is no mean feet; especially since Ronaldinho’s Atlético revival in 2012.  His magnificent form saw him register 9 goals and 11 assists on the way to the 2012 Campeonato Mineiro title and the runners up spot in the Brasileirao, reminding us of the Ronaldinho of old.  The fact that he has been usurped by Bernard shows the high level of faith and belief that Scolari has in the youngster.

Master and Apprentice

Master and Apprentice

Bernard’s explosion onto the Brazilian football scene has not gone unnoticed by the money flaunting, talent harbouring giants of Europe.  The young playmaker has been linked with several clubs in recent months.  Chelsea, Inter Milan and Spartak Moscow have all earmarked the star playmaker who could cost around €20 million, but the most recent interest has emerged from the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund.

BVB are in the hunt for a replacement for Munich bound Mario Götze and Bernard would definitely fit the bill for Jürgen Klopp.  He is young, energetic and technically astute, his style of play would suit Dortmund and his age means there is plenty of development still to be had, thus making Bernard a long term investment in the clubs mission to sustain success.  If Dortmund managed to secure the signature of Bernard and Christian Eriksen as has been widely reported then there’s no doubt about their future credentials both domestically and in Europe.

In October last year, ESPN reported that Atlético Mineiro had received offers from European clubs for Bernard and the player himself had revealed he would be tempted by a move.

“I am glad, of course, of the European interest. However, at this time I am focused on Atletico…”

Bernard was not distracted by rumours and remained focused on the task at hand with Atlético as his influence helped to guide Galo into the runners up spot in the Brasileirao and the Campeonato Mineiro title.

Now that the European season has reached its finale, and the Confederations Cup begins in June, it is highly likely that interest in the young playmaker will begin to rise again.  There will no doubt be countless scouts casting their eye over Bernard during the tournament in Brazil and it will be interesting to see how he performs for Seleção.

Bernard is part of a new generation of Brazilian attacking midfielders and one that has the potential to match or perhaps even surpass the talents of Ronaldinho and Kaka.  Oscar, Coutinho and Lucas Moura have all made the successful leap to big European clubs at a young age.  But will Bernard be able to follow in the footsteps of his countrymen onto the biggest stage in world football?  Only time will tell, but the early signs are very promising for the young playmaker.

By Jamie Allen

This piece has also appeared on these Football times.

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Posted in: Football