Bernardo – our Etihad Player of the Month for September – sparkled as Pep Guardiola’s men defeated the Clarets 2-0, opening the scoring and producing a typically industrious performance, which inspired Sinclair to dub him ‘a little leaf!’
Analysing the triumph on our Matchday Live show, former City players Sinclair and Goater were full of praise for the Portugal midfielder, purring over his skill, work ethic and the way he leads by example.
“He sets the standard,” said Sinclair. “Bernardo is so reliable. Everything City did that was good, positive and quick came from him. He was integral.
“The work rate… When you cross that white line, you have to give 100% and have the enthusiasm to run and outwork the opposition. Every time he crosses that white line, he does that.
“You can see it in his post-match interview – he looks spent! It’s because he’s put every ounce of effort into the match.
“Any young player, thinking: ‘Look at his skill when he’s on the ball…’ That’s great but look at the other side of his game – his workrate as well. That is almost as important.
“He brings a smile to your face. You only have to watch a little clip of him in training or in the warm-up. He loves football, he’s passionate about it.
“I remember watching him for the first time – the Monaco game in the Champions League – and I couldn’t’ believe how good he was.
“He’s almost like a little leaf with the distance he travels and with the willingness to work tirelessly for the team, he’s such an unselfish player and you need players like that.
“He timed his run perfectly [for his goal]. When he’s on pomp, following in and getting the goals and rewards, that typifies what he is all about.
“You can rest or rotate him and he isn’t tripping over his lip. He is a really good professional.
“I think the balance of that three – Bernardo with Kevin De Bruyne in the final third, who has the quality and passing range, and Rodrigo as a mover of the ball who lets them get on with it (with his anticipation having improved massively as he’s got up to speed with the Premier League) – is superb.”
Goater, who has joined City’s Academy coaching set-up as part of a programme aimed at increasing the number of Black, Asian and mixed heritage coaches working full-time in professional football, was equally complimentary of Bernardo’s contribution, likening the midfielder to Club legend David Silva.
“All his qualities… You can imagine him in Rondos and drills because he is another David Silva,” he added.
“He’s that sort of player you don’t want to be chasing when you don’t have the ball because of his low centre of gravity and his ability to go left or right.
“There was a stage in the game where one of the Burnley lads was chasing him and it reminded me of school, when you were chasing someone and then they go left, then right and it's: ‘See you later!’
“He’s got the ball and he goes in these 360 spins and you end up realising: ‘Oh, he’s now going forward and I thought I was chasing him back!’
“He has such great ability dribbling in small little areas, little pockets – and his desire to do the press…
“He runs from the halfway line to the goalkeeper inside his box – and he’s full-on sprinting; not jogging – to put that press on!
“This is him from start to finish. He is a joy for us as fans and you know Pep also enjoys it.
“He has started so brilliantly with his energy. I’m so glad we’re starting to see him play, though we’re not surprised in what he does. He’s a quality player.
“That energy we see in midfield, I don’t think you’ll find much better in terms of the quality of service, the quality of energy – being able to press – and the ability to keep possession.
“It’s like a perfect midfield.”
The American shot-stopper impressed with a solid display, preserving City’s clean sheet with two smart saves.
“I thought one player who played particularly well was Steffen,” Sinclair stated.
“It’s in the DNA of City goalkeepers: Ederson is calm on the ball and Steffen is exactly the same, as is the young boy on loan who plays for the Republic of Ireland [Gavin Bazunu]. They all have the same mentality.
“A couple of times in the first half and in the second half, Steffen had to put his body on the line and head the ball but they don’t flinch! They’re exactly the same.
“It was a really impressive performance and the clean sheet will give him a lot of confidence.”
Goater agreed: “How calm is he?! I’m panicking as the ball’s going back to him but he’s really calm.
“He’s really showing that composure and calmness you need. He’s finding that pass and City go playing through the thirds.
“In the one-v-one [against Maxwel Cornet], he put himself nice and big.
“He goes and commands that position: ‘I’m in control of this’ and some forwards, who are not calm or not used to that, can panic – as opposed to them being in control of the situation.
“Steffen made two brilliant saves and I liked the way he commanded, making himself really big to make the save.”
“It was a great performance, especially on the back of an international break” Sinclair reflected.
“They’re getting familiar with each other again. They’ve come from different formations, styles of play, personnel and lots of Pep Guardiola’s football is based on patterns of play: repeat, repeat, repeat.
“It’s about getting going in passing drills, getting used to patterns again.
“All in all, it was thorough and professional. We didn’t give away too many chances and we’ve come away with a clean sheet, which is great.”