LONDON (Reuters) – Pep Guardiola was quick to acknowledge just what a “big miss” Kevin de Bruyne will be for the champions once it was confirmed on Friday that the Belgian’s knee injury will keep him out of action for probably three months.
Yet Guardiola’s enthusiasm for two more of his midfield maestros suggests that despite the cloud that the loss of the brilliant De Bruyne has left hanging over the Etihad, he can see a “Silva lining”.
This could be Bernardo Silva’s moment after his scintillating start to the season to make the grade from City’s favourite luxury item on the bench to the main man.
And with David Silva potentially ready to rejoin the fray for Sunday’s visit of Huddersfield Town, Guardiola believes the 32-year-old Spaniard also still has a key role to play now that he has hung up his international boots.
Naturally, De Bruyne, who scored eight goals, set up 16 more and created the lion’s share of chances in City’s landmark 100-point season, is going to be missed. After all, no player in Europe’s top five leagues provided more goal assists.
Of course too, City are spoiled for midfield choice as Juergen Klopp, manager of rivals Liverpool, noted on Friday when he told Sky Sports how sorry he was about De Bruyne’s misfortune.
“They still have options of course, like they always do,” said Klopp. “They have brought in Riyad Mahrez, but they can all play in different positions. Nobody need worry about Man City and their quality, there’s still a lot there.”
Guardiola’s ability to bring the best out of intelligent players even when moving them into new, unaccustomed positions makes his City side perhaps the most flexible the Premier League has seen.
Yet even amid the bewildering array of midfield talent that Guardiola still has at his disposal with the likes of Ilkay Gundogan, Fabian Delph and Mahrez on board, Bernardo Silva had already staked his claim to taking the reins.
He was superb in the Community Shield win over Chelsea and opening league victory at Arsenal, with his performance in the Wembley curtain-raiser hailed as a “masterpiece” by Guardiola.
He also noted that currently it was “Bernardo and 10 players more” such was his level of play. “He is so intelligent, he is clever, he is a fighter, a competitor,” gushed the manager.
Last season, Silva played 35 league matches, but started only 15, a figure that should rise considerably this season, particularly in light of De Bruyne’s injury.
But Guardiola believes David Silva too could be rejuvenated now that he has decided to end his distinguished World Cup-winning international career.
“Big congratulations to him,” said Guardiola, reporting that Silva had overcome a slight knock that kept him out of the Arsenal match and was back in contention for Sunday’s game.
“More than 100 games, winning the World Cup, two European Championships as one of the most fascinating, incredible players in the history of Spain.
“Nobody pushed him, he decided to finish his international career so he could rest a little bit more with his wife, family and his little boy while continuing to play with us.”
(Reporting by Ian Chadband, editing by Ed Osmond)