The motivation inspiring Bernardo Silva and Man City to new heights

Bernardo Silva will aim to send Man City into the Champions League semi-finals  (Getty Images)
Bernardo Silva will aim to send Man City into the Champions League semi-finals (Getty Images)

If the treble was history, the double treble would be legacy. Bernardo Silva has an eye on a hat-trick of achievements that would echo through the ages. Manchester City won the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Champions League last season, a feat only previously accomplished by Manchester United in 1998-99.

In the last three decades, since the European Cup evolved into the Champions League, only Real Madrid have retained the trophy. Until, perhaps, City this season. And since the English league was established in 1888, no team has won four successive titles. With six games to go, City are two points clear at the top of the table, their fate entirely in their own hands.

For all Silva’s eloquence in possession, he has rarely been as outspoken in his ambition. Repeat the treble and City could have a claim to be the greatest side ever; a title which many currently afford to Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona. Silva does not shy away from the idea. “It is obviously inspiration and motivation,” he said. “We know how well this team has done and we want to create that legacy and to do another Premier League, to do six in seven years and four in a row, And we want to win the Champions League, to do two in a row. Only Madrid did three in a row but no one else won consecutive Champions League and if we win two trebles in a row that would be legacy.”

Bernardo Silva (right) has helped Man City become a dominant force (Getty Images)
Bernardo Silva (right) has helped Man City become a dominant force (Getty Images)

He cited the alternative scenario – “in one week we could be out of all the competitions” – but, as Silva noted, City are now practised in the art of competing on multiple fronts in April. “This group has proved throughout the years that we are capable of getting to the final month of the season fighting for all the competitions,” he said. The rest of the campaign can be a warm-up for the serious business.

“Now it is where all the tough things start because it is not easy, that is why only two teams won the treble in English football because it is not easy,” he added. “But we are very happy to be in a position where we can fight for all of them.”

And yet, as Silva admitted, City started the season with a “hangover”. There was a point in the middle of the campaign when he felt they were not playing well: susceptible to transitions, conceding late goals, “which is not normal for us”, weakened by injuries, lacking their usual control. There are times when one of Guardiola’s favourite players does not just put his vision into practice on the pitch, but channel his thoughts. Mentions of “control” are frequent. Kyle Walker, who could be fit to start, has a particular importance because “he has controlled some of the best players in the world”. Vinicius Junior against Walker could be an epic duel. Real, Silva thinks, are particularly dangerous opponents because they can be uncontrollable. “You have the feeling you have the game under control but you never do,” he explained.

Real Madrid can produce moments of brilliance (AP)
Real Madrid can produce moments of brilliance (AP)

That said, it was Silva himself who kickstarted an anarchic affair at the Bernabeu last week, his 30-yard free kick catching Andriy Lunin out and starting the scoring in the second minute. It may have reinforced a reputation as the scourge of Real. Silva scored what proved the first-leg winner in a 4-3 in 2022. He struck twice, and produced arguably his finest performance for City, in last season’s 4-0 rout in the semi-final.

“I didn’t watch the game back so I only have the feeling of what we did on the pitch,” said Silva; whether too self-effacing or too eager to avoid complacency to revisit perhaps his greatest hour-and-a-half. He does not anticipate a repeat. “Two different seasons,” he explained. “It never happens the same game in football again so I feel Madrid is stronger this season than last season. That was my feeling when we played them at the Bernabeu.”

But previous games provide the context, the fuel. Silva recalls City’s late heartbreak at the Bernabeu in the 2022 semi-final. It helped galvanise them towards their treble; or their first treble, anyway.

“After what happened when we were knocked out by Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, we wanted to put things right.” Which, it is safe to say, City did in the 4-0. “That performance was also a bit of an apology to our fans for what happened the season before because we feel we owed them another chance to win the competition.”

They have done that now, but it leaves Real with a similar feeling. “For sure, they will want a bit of revenge,” Silva said. His own motivations now are less about payback and more about history. And, in particular, City’s place in it.