Scouting report: Bernard

Despite most of the talk from Brazil surrounds the imminent transfer of Neymar, Brazilian football still maintains a few of its gems. After having failed at the World Cup in 2010 and the Copa America a year later, Brazilian football seemed to reach a common understanding that it was time to allow the new generation to stake its claim. With Lucas Moura and Neymar leading the way for a new generation of Brazilians in Europe, many seem to fall under the radar. Because if there’s one player whose emergence has been a revelation to his team, it’s Bernard at Atletico Mineiro.

Bernard Anício Caldeira Duarte arrived on the scene in 2010 for Atletico Mineiro after a successful loan spell at second division side Democrata in Brazil. After having shown his stuff by netting 14 goals in 16 matches, the undoubted potential seemed to come to fruition. Despite this, he struggled to find his feet at “Galo” (Atletico Mineiro’s common nickname) and was even placed as a rightback for a brief period due to injury crisis at the club. He was later sent back down to Atletico MG’s youth teams. There he led his team to the state championship and was named the tournament’s best player. The firing of manager Dorival Junior eventually led to Bernard finally getting his chance under new manager Cuca. He was given 23 games under the new manager and had Brazilian fans swaying their attention towards him as he danced across defenders.

If the 2011-season was seen as his introduction, then 2012 was the season in which he smashed through the glass ceiling. From having been an energy boost on the wings, he was now a game winner and the soul reference point for “Galo”. Drifting across the lines, taking his man on, threading through passes, finishing with ease. Simply put; when Bernard received the ball, something was bound to happen. As the season progressed, everything seemed to click under manager Cuca and Atletico MG were suddenly challenging for the Brasileirão. Bernard was perhaps the reference point, but a few months into the season Galo added another dimension to their team; they added Ronaldinho Gaúcho.

Ronaldinho and Bernard, along with striker Jo, struck fear into the hears of every defence in Brazil. With Ronaldinho now threading through the centre, Bernard would bomb down the left and would always find himself a bit of space. The two would also interchange positions and combined Bernard’s energetic performances with the suave, savvy style which has underlined Ronaldinho for over a decade now. Bernard was included in the initial squad for Brazil’s squad in the Olympics, but was eventually left out. Neverthless, it underlined what progress he had made in a little over a year of top tier football. The season ended with “Galo” finishing second to champions Fluminense with Bernard bagging 11 goals and 12 assists in 36 matches. The season culminated with Bernard getting his first game for Brazil against Argentina in the “Superclásicos de Americas” tournament. He had arrived on the big stage.

Bernard’s style of play is a pleasure on the eye for anyone who enjoys fast paced, exciting football filled with technical ability and trickery. Despite being able to play across the entire front three behind the striker, he seems to prefer the left wing. From there he gets to the byline with ease if he doesn’t decide to take on his man and cut towards goal. His vision is excellent and he’s as good at combining quick one-two’s as he is cutting defences apart with his passing abilities. The huge upside to Bernard is that he’s two-footed. He passes and shoots with both feet and is never pressured off the ball due to his inability to switch which foot he leads with. His small stature (he’s 5´5/1.67m) makes him an obvious target for bigger, burlier defenders, but his balance and low center of gravity is used to perfection as he wriggles through defences. He might need some time to adjust to the physicality of the Bundesliga, but in terms of tempo he seems to be ready for European football.

His energy and tireless running will be welcomed at Borussia Dortmund and their preference for Jürgen Klopp’s “gegenpressing” system. If Dortmund also land Kevin De Bruyne, you could easily form a front trio of Bernard, Marco Reus and Kevin De Bruyne in which you will have work rate, flair and goals. With Ilkay Gündogan becoming the main reference point, the lack of a Mario Götze will perhaps not become as apparent with De Bruyne, Bernard and Reus all combining. Albeit that they all manage to mesh together, obviously. The trio, in which you could also add in someone like Kuba, would also excuse Dortmund for adding a “slower” striker. like Edin Dzeko for example. Bernard fits the bill perfectly in a system that thrives on quick counters, fast passing combinations and high, intensive pressure. He will need time to adapt to his new surroundings, especially after the turbulent couple of years he’s been having, but Bernard could become a revelation for Dortmund. And if there’s any manager out there who will know how to exploit his talents, it’s Jürgen Klopp.

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