Men's Team

Bernardo: You have to enjoy these big occasions!

Bernardo Silva says making sure you enjoy big occasions in your career gives you a much better chance of being successful in them as he prepares for Saturday’s Champions League final.

City face Inter on Saturday, with a 20:00 (UK) kick-off in the Ataturk Stadium in Istanbul and Bernardo believes the players should relish the occasion because they don’t come along very often.

But, more than that, the influential 28-year-old thinks that playing with a smile on your face raises your levels of performance.

It's an insight that has been offered to him by Pep Guardiola throughout their six seasons together in sky blue – and one the boss reiterated to the players on the eve of the semi-final second leg triumph over Real Madrid.

Talking about the manager’s approach against Los Blancos, which ensured our arrival in this weekend’s showpiece final, he said: “The main message that he passes to us in these matches, not only against Real Madrid, but in this match against Real Madrid, because we’re in a semi-final of the Champions League, and because last year we had a match with them where they knocked us out in a strange way.

"It was tough for us to accept it, so we have to understand that we can lose because we’re playing against one of the best teams in the world, but we have to reach the end of the tie and have no regrets. 

“We have to reach the end of the tie with no regrets, knowing that we did everything we could possibly do to have the best chance to reach the final.

“We have to be yourselves, have ball possession, apply high pressure, control the match, and create more chances to score.

“And if we did that, we knew that we would be a little bit closer to our final objective, knowing that we would be playing against a great team, but also enjoying the moment, because playing a semi-final in the Champions League is special.

“Reaching these moments is always very tough, so if you don’t seize it and enjoy it, you don’t know if you’ll ever be able to do it again.

“And I also think that you’ll get a little bit further from your objective because when you do things with enjoyment, you do them better.”

Playing in the Champions League final provides the conclusion to the 2022/23 season and comes after a brilliant campaign for City having already lifted the Premier League and FA Cup trophies.

Bernardo admits it’s been a ‘difficult’ season because of the title fight with Arsenal where City had to play catch-up for much of the campaign.

The playmaker says that the two victories over Arsenal, the home win coming shortly after the elimination of Bayern Munich in the UCL quarter-final, were key to setting up a potential Treble this weekend.

He continued: “This has been a difficult season, because 90% of the season, to start with, we were always behind Arsenal and we couldn’t win four or five matches in a row.

“So we couldn’t get that momentum of confidence, of thinking: okay, now we’re unstoppable. Because, when you start winning five, six, seven matches in a row, you get that feeling that you’re unstoppable. And it’s difficult to stop a team when they have this feeling.

“Any team, not just us. And this past year, it was always like, one, two, three matches and then we’d draw or lose. That ended up creating a feeling of lack of confidence within the team.

“And I think, especially after the World Cup, there was a moment of reflection, and even after coming back at first, those first games weren’t easy, but the away win over Arsenal was very important.

“It made us believe again that we can win important matches. And in the moment that we won over Arsenal at home, it was approximately at the same time when we knocked out Bayern Munich from the Champions League, it ended up being a very important moment.

“Because we got first place in the Premier League and got to the semi-finals by eliminating one of the best teams in the world. And so we got to the last month of the season, knowing it would be very difficult, but we thought: ‘We’re fighting for all of these trophies, except for the League Cup, let’s go for it and give it our best. Whatever happens, happens.’

“And that’s what we did, and fortunately we got to win the Premier League and get to the two finals we wanted to reach.

“And now we’ll give it our all to win these finals and make history by winning the three titles. And most especially the Champions League, because it’s the title we haven’t won yet.”

Bernardo has his sights set on victory on Saturday but insists a win – and a first Champions League trophy in the cabinet – would belong to many more people than just the players on the pitch.

He says that an illustrious Treble would be a ‘special prize’ for everyone at Manchester City.

Bernardo knows it would be an amazing achievement by the squad but insists that the triumph would belong to everyone connected with the Club – including staff, board and fans.