Playmaking starlet says bye-bye to the Brasileirão
Atlético Mineiro’s talented playmaker, Bernard Duarte seems to have played his last game for his home town club. After a highly productive season in Brazil, which culminated in Atlético’s dramatic Copa Libertadores victory over Paraguayan side, Olimpia, Bernard is seemingly on his way to one of Europe’s top clubs.
The young Brazilian has been catching the eye of many of Europe’s elite clubs with his performances for Galo. Although lacking in physical stature, he has the skilled dribbling, dazzling footwork and technical prowess to match many of the world’s best playmakers. He’s most comparable fellow countryman Oscar and Philippe Coutinho, who both play a similar style of football to Bernard.
Despite expending much of his efforts going forward, Bernard doesn’t shy away from his defensive duties, tracking back and putting a tackle in where necessary. There is no doubt that he has learnt a lot from his time playing with Ronaldinho at Atlético and his game has improved dramatically. His energetic displays will make him a valuable addition to any of the rumoured, potential suitors.
A number of clubs have been linked with the talented Brazilian, including Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool from the Premier League alongside Borussia Dortmund, Porto and Shaktar Donetsk. Mineiro’s asking price of £20 million has proved a stumbling block so far, but it is a seller’s market and Bernard would definitely be worth the investment.
The player himself has been relatively cool regarding the rumours surrounding his future, Bernard told Sportv:
“I’ll keep working until the board decides something about the transfer….There are offers from English football, Shakhtar and Porto.”
2013 Copa Libertadores
The Copa Libertadores final was an emotional affair for Bernard. Atlético had never won the competition previously and carried a two goal deficit into the second leg; it was always going to be a tough task for Galo to come away with the trophy. However, this did not deter head coach, Cuca from going all out in the second leg with a gung-ho attack. Mineiro were quick out of the blocks, exercising their attacking options to threaten Olimpia on a number of occasions but couldn’t manage to find the back of the net in the first half.
Galo began the second half in much the same way as the first and immediately made a telling breakthrough. A mistake in the Olimpia defence allowed former Manchester City and Everton forward, Jô to capitalise and reduce the deficit. Mineiro continued applying the pressure on the Olimpia defence as chances were spurned by both teams. Most tellingly, a through ball cut out the Atlético defence but Olimpia’s Ferreyra slipped at the vital moment after rounding the Mineiro keeper, who was found in no man’s land and the open goal left gaping.
The game swayed either way during the second half. With Galo seeking the elusive equaliser; it was inevitable that gaps would open up at the back. However, Olimpia were unable to capitalise and then suffered a major blow as centre-back, Julio Cesar Manzur received his marching orders in the 84th minute. Manzur collected his second yellow card for blatantly blocking Alecsandro on the edge of the penalty area.
Low and behold, Atlético’s persistence paid off against the 10 men of Olimpia. Crosses from the wide areas had been plentiful throughout the game for Galo and after Olimpia failed to clear their lines, the ball fell to Bernard on the right wing. The home-town prodigy wasted no time in putting the ball back into the Olimpia box with a cross to the far post. Leonardo Silva leaped above everyone else in the penalty area to connect with Bernard’s cross. The ball seemed to hang in the air before eventually looping into the back of the net to make it 2-2, sparking delirium amongst the Mineiro faithful and ensuring extra time.
The 30 minutes of extra time came and went as chances went begging and the woodwork was rattled, but neither side could break the deadlock and penalties would decide the 2013 Copa Libertadores.
Olimpia got off to the worst possible start in the shoot-out as Miranda saw his penalty saved by Victor. Alecsandro then stepped up to put Atlético into an early lead. Guilherme and Jô all followed suit for the Brazilian side and Ferreyra, Candia and Aranda for the Paraguayan’s. With the scores at 3-3, Leonardo Silva, who scored the equaliser in normal time, stepped up to take Mineiro’s fourth spot kick. He subsequently found the back of the net to place the pressure firmly on Matías Giménez, who was to take Olimpia’s fifth and final spot kick. Giménez’ penalty crashed off the post and Atlético had completed the unlikely comeback with a 4-3 victory from the penalty spot.
The Libertadores final was the fairytale ending to Bernard’s career with his boyhood club, winning the trophy in dramatic fashion on top of the Confederations Cup with Brazil. He will now have the opportunity to move onto bigger and better things. His agent, Adriano Spadoto Tweeted after the final:
“Congratulations Bernard. Double winner! Confederations Cup, Libertadores … the perfect farewell.”
Alhough, the fairytale ending was not quite all it was billed to be. Bernard’s latest game for Galo against Atletico Paranaense in the Brasileirao saw him collect a red card in a 2-1 defeat. Despite the speculation surrounding his future, he received a massive round of applause from the Mineiro faithful.
Overall, Bernard has contributed so much to the Mineiro cause over the past year or so. The Copa Libertadores saw him bag four goals throughout the competition and his late assist in the final took the game to extra time, effectively setting Galo on the road to an unlikely comeback.
Bernard hinted at his desire to leave after the Libertadores final victory:
“I made it clear that, if I stay or not, I wanted to leave here with an important title. It’s up to God to decide if I stay or not, up to God, [Atletico Mineiro’s] presidency and the board.”
The young Brazilian will be a fantastic addition for whichever club manages to capture his signature. Like Neymar, Bernard has crafted his early career in Brazil and after much hype; he is now ready to face a truly defining test in Europe. It is still to be decided which club that will be for…?
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