1st May 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
There's no doubting what an overwhelmingly positive debut season in the Bundesliga RB Leipzig's immensely talented defender, Bernardo, has enjoyed.
The Brazilian, who came through the Red Bull pathway, firstly with Red Bull Brasil and then Red Bull Salzburg, has adapted admirably to the rigours of the Bundesliga, as he's been an integral member of Ralph HasenhÃ¼ttl's side's remarkable campaign.
Now, currently sitting second in the league and guaranteed a spot in the Champions League next term, Bernardo puts their tremendous success down to their committed approach and steadfast mindset.
"We work very hard as a team. When you see our training, you know we give it all. We are very young, so we can usually wind up more kilometers than the opponent. I think our attitude is very good, we make pressure at all times. And our individual quality is very high."
Indeed, Leipzig's sensational campaign so far is made all the more impressive due to the fact they possess the youngest side in the division, with their squad's average age being only 24.3.
To switch the focus back to Bernardo, and his integration has been quite amazing, especially when considering he's naturally left footed and prefers to play as a central defender, a position his towering 186cm frame is ideally suited to. In a recent interview with Bild he duly noted, how challenging undertaking his adopted right-back role initially was, explaining: "At the beginning it was already hard, but now it works quite well. When Lukas (Klostermann) got hurt, the coach asked me if I was right. I said yes.
"I love playing centrally, because I am a relatively big player, my favorite position is the inner defense."
He went on to jokingly add: "But I also play outside defenders, strikers or goalkeepers - what the coach says and where I'm needed (laughs)."
The man many have touted as one of the finest prospects in European football has craftily ported his skillset over to right-back very smoothly indeed. Although he lacks a bit of acceleration, his largely sound positioning, strength, decision making, and understanding of his responsibilities has seen him largely win the majority of his battles.
Possessing such long, raking legs also sees him pose a formidable obstacle for opponents to get by, as he can stretch out and cover a huge space. His imposing stature, in comparison to many of the more diminutive wingers he matches up with, gives him a massive advantage too, meaning he, more often than not, completely dominates his aerial duels.
Moreover, being left footed helps him out when he's confronted with isolation situations, for in today's game most wingers love to dribble inside. This suits Bernardo beautifully, allowing him to challenge their infield ventures with his strong foot, giving him better balance to apply his interventions.
From his 18 Bundesliga starts and one sub appearance, his 3.2 won aerial duels per game, 2.9 tackles pg, 2.9 interceptions pg and two clearances pg have aptly underlined his effectiveness.
Technically proficient in the arts of passing and dribbling, plus at timing his forward runs into advanced locations when the opportunity presents itself, the languid stopper has undoubtedly contributed strongly in his team's attacking forays too.
It's been additionally admirable to see how maturely he's dealt with any personal setbacks, whether it be injury or when he was recently dropped courtesy of a downturn in form. "This is a normal development. We lost twice and I did not play well. It was fair for the coach to let others play," he humbly insisted.
Now having won his place back, and continuing to gain vital experience with every passing week, Bernardo's certainly doing his father proud, who himself had a stint in the Bundesliga in 1991 with Bayern Munich.
His next step will be to replicate his father's achievement of running out for the coveted Brazilian national team one day, something his dad did five times. But while Bernardo is desperate to fulfill this dream, he's realistic about his chances at present. "Every Brazilian or footballer would like to play for the Selecao. I as well. But at the moment it's too early. After the 2018 World Cup in Russia maybe if I continue to develop positively here in Leipzig."
Under the watchful eye of coach HasenhÃ¼ttl and master sporting director, Ralf Rangnick, there's no better place for him to develop his craft than under their expert tutelage within the confines of Leipzig's state of the art training facilities.
Already operating at such a high level and with a massive scope for improvement, Bernardo's another glowing example of the Red Bull project's fantastic ability to nurture and develop talent into the real deal.
Licence to Roam - another great football blog.
RB Leipzig Defender Bernardo - Another example of excellence in the Red Bull project
1st May 2017. By Edward Stratmann.