Bernardo Silva interview: Man City and Portugal midfielder talks Euro 2024, Ballon d’Or and playing under pressure | Football News

Earlier this year, at a FIFA awards ceremony held in London, Bernardo Silva was ranked as the eighth best men’s player of 2023, voted for by players, coaches and journalists from around the world. Lionel Messi edged out Erling Haaland for the top prize.

Silva is respectful when the subject comes up. “Recognition is always nice,” he tells Sky Sports. But one senses, underneath the surface, there is a healthy disregard for these individual awards and their place in the game. It soon comes to the fore.

“In my opinion, I give the right amount of importance to these awards,” he continues. “Because, at the end of the day, we are playing a collective sport. Nowadays, the individual awards always go to the strikers because they have that last touch.

“But if you understand the game, a person who is inside the game, either a player or a manager, you know how important it is to have a proper goalkeeper, a proper defender, a proper midfielder and a proper striker. Not just a proper striker.

“Strikers do not win you titles alone. The base comes from defence. If you defend well, you will attack better. When I look at individual awards and I see that only the guys who score goals win the awards I feel a bit like it does not represent our sport that well.”

Tellingly, his Portugal team-mate Pepe and his national team boss Roberto Martinez did cast a vote for Silva. “When the people around you on a daily basis trust you, count on you, and think you can help them win things, that is a big motivation to keep going.”

In short, he is a team player in a team sport. “I always do my best to support my team-mates and do what is best for the team,” he adds. “In the end, winning the Champions League is much better than winning a Ballon d’Or. I would not swap it. No chance.”

Euro 2024 is his next target. Silva remembers everything about Portugal’s Euro 2016 triumph. He should have been at the heart of it. Instead, he was watching on, injury having robbed him of his part in his country’s first major tournament success.

It must have been a strange feeling? “It was a mix of emotions. I was so frustrated before the competition for not going because I wanted to be a part of it. I did all the qualifying. It would have been my first big tournament and I would have been there but I got injured.

“But then, in the end, when they won it, I am Portuguese. Everyone was so happy, all my family, all my friends, everyone. So it was a mix of frustration for not being there but also being very happy because it was our first big title as a country.”

Eight years on, Silva will turn 30 in August. The intervening period has brought glory. Six times now he has lifted the Premier League trophy with Manchester City. Last year, he was able to add the Champions League to his impressive list of honours.

Now he is ready for another tilt at the trophy that eluded him.

“The funny thing about playing for your country is that even my grandmother who does not care about football, when Portugal play, she loves to watch it. When a country plays, everybody watches. Even those who do not like that specific sport.”

Does he feel that pressure? “When you play in a Euros, definitely,” he says. “You are representing your whole country, your family and friends. We are all human. You are going to feel it more. Playing for Portugal is always a bit different and special.”

Silva is speaking at an adidas photo shoot, the theme of which is pressure and coping with it. He freely admits that football can be relentless. That demand to win is a constant companion as a Manchester City player and he feels it on the rare occasions they fall short.

“If you love the game, you want to do it well. And if you want to do something well, you feel that responsibility. That is why you feel pressure. In a way, that pressure is a good thing. It is your mind and your body telling you that you want this.

“It is up to you to try to control these emotions.”

You Got This

adidas is continuing its ambition to help disarm negative pressure in sport , with the new campaign motivating football icons with a rallying cry ‘You Got This’. The new campaign is headlined by a new film which aims to inspire next-gen athletes to also overcome pressure and help fuel their love of the beautiful game.

When stepping up to take a penalty against Real Madrid in the quarter-final of the Champions League in April, Silva kept calm and opted to go down the middle. The goalkeeper Andriy Lunin stood still, saving the shot. City lost the shootout, relinquishing their crown.

He soon rationalised his decision as a percentage play. In those big moments, goalkeepers are nervous too. They tend to dive. On this occasion, it did not work out. “It is not all beautiful and nice. Sometimes you go through bad moments,” he says.

“I am not going to say I do not feel nervous. But I try to accept it. It is a reality of the job. It is part of it. The challenge is to deal with those difficult moments. Accept it. It is about accepting it and continuing to work. If you do that, you will do better next time.”

Perspective is important for Silva. “It is a game. You are not going to die if you lose.” He talks of the need to “play with a smile on your face” and try to keep hold of this thought in the low moments. And there is always family life to help him to remember.

“Going home, it does not matter if I win, lose or draw, seeing my daughter is something that I always look forward to,” he says. “Life with my daughter, my wife and our two dogs, whatever happens, knowing we will be a good family, it keeps me going.”

It is the sort of level-headed approach that has helped make him such a popular figure for club and country. Silva is not flash, on the field or off it. “He does not have any tattoos or a nice car,” says Pep Guardiola. He is just one of the best players in the world.

Bernardo Silva had the highest expected assists from open play of any Man City player in their Premier League title-winning season
Bernardo Silva had the highest expected assists from open play of any Man City player

Silva is the one who knits the play, the one who makes the off-the-ball runs, fills in where he is needed. During a season in which, again, others took the plaudits, he created the most chances from open play for City as they retained the Premier League title.

There is a sense that he remains at his happiest out of the spotlight, as if this is his natural habitat, despite his extraordinary gifts. But sometimes that is impossible, such as when he was the player of the tournament in Portugal’s 2019 Nations League success.

That did not change him as a person but perhaps it did change how other people behave around him – and his extended family back home in Portugal. “The more I win, the more people are speaking to them, children asking for a video or asking for my shirt.”

Part of the thrill of watching Silva is that his own childlike exuberance remains part of him. “On the street, in school with friends, or in Benfica’s academy, I remember just enjoying having the ball around me. Doing what I love, which is playing football. Pure joy.”

Has that changed? “It feels a bit more like a job,” he confesses. But there is a caveat. “And I still love my job. It is a dream come true.” And there are no plans for it to end any time soon. “No chance. I am going to play as much as I can. When I cannot, I will stop.”

Before that, there is an opportunity to claim that overdue European Championship with Portugal. The squad is strong and Martinez has made a good start. “We are enjoying the time with him. The results have been really good. But now the big challenge comes.”

And if the pressure is on, and it required a penalty shootout for Portugal to progress, perhaps even win it? “I would take it. Hopefully, I would score. But I would take it, knowing that it is a big responsibility. I would take it, definitely.” Whatever the team needs.