PARIS (Reuters) - Monaco lose some of their best players every season but they keep attracting top youngsters like Bernardo Silva who they will be relying on when they visit Manchester City in their Champions League last 16, first leg clash on Tuesday.
The Portugal offensive midfielder, 22, has been nicknamed “Messizinho” (the Little Messi) by team mate Joao Moutinho and according to media reports Manchester United and Chelsea have already tried to secure his services for next season.
Silva, who joined the principality club from Benfica in 2014, has amazing dribbling skills and the excellent vision that could make him an old-school playmaker, although he has developed a roaming role and likes to push wide.
”When Bernardo arrived, I straight away said he was a good player but that he needed to keep working,“ said Moutinho. ”And that’s what he’s done this year. He had two fine seasons but this year he’s really been a revelation.
“Messi, Eusebio, Cristiano Ronaldo, Maradona, Pele... They’re players who are and will remain in football history. I hope and believe that Bernardo has the quality to get close to that level.”
With six goals and five assists in 25 Ligue 1 appearances, Silva has been instrumental in Monaco’s rise to the top of the table in a team who have scored 76 goals in 26 matches.
City, on the other hand, have conceded 29 in 25 Premier League games, making former England striker Michael Owen’s assumption that Monaco were a “good draw” a bold assessment.
Monaco geared up for the clash with a disappointing 1-1 draw at lowly Bastia in Ligue 1 on Friday but City have no reason for over-confidence after being held to a 0-0 stalemate at second-tier Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup fifth round on Sunday.
The Citizens will be without Brazilian prodigy Gabriel Jesus, who has had foot surgery and will be out of action for at least two months after a promising start at the club.
City centre back Vincent Kompany, however, is expected to be fit again after missing the FA Cup game with an injury which Guardiola described as “not a big issue”.
Guardiola was not too worried that his team were held by a Championship side in the FA Cup and Monaco were not overly concerned by their result either.
“Let’s not be worried, we missed the first half but did good after the break. It’s the second half (performance) that we need to reproduce against City,” said Monaco forward Valere Germain.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris