After enjoying arguably his best season yet in a Manchester City shirt, the reports linking Bernardo Silva with a move away from the club were not what City fans wanted to see this week.

A surge of reports have suggested that the 28-year-old is the priority target of Barcelona coach Xavi, and should Bernardo indicate that he wants to move to the Camp Nou then City would demand at least an €80m (£68.3m) fee from the Spanish giants.

MEN Sport understands that Bernardo is happy at the club and with life in Manchester, while City are in no mood to sell one of their best players. When quizzed on the subject last week, Pep Guardiola said it would be “very difficult” for Barcelona to sign his midfielder.

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While the reports appear to be largely speculation, the way in which they are gaining traction and increasing in number is a little unsettling for City to say the least, as was Bernardo’s failure to dismiss the rumours in a recent television interview.

At this stage, it seems more than likely that Bernardo will be wearing a sky blue shirt next season, but the question of how City would adapt to life without the Portuguese midfielder remains a fascinating one.

Hijack Manchester United

Manchester United have been heavily linked with Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong in the past week, with the Dutch midfielder reportedly now open to reuniting with his old coach Erik ten Hag at Old Trafford.

The word coming out of Spain is that Barcelona would only be happy to let the 25-year-old go if they can replace him with Bernardo.

In recent years United have developed a habit of hijacking City’s transfer negotiations and signing their targets, but if City wanted to cut out the middle man and sign an elite replacement for Bernardo then they could turn the tables on their neighbours.

Guardiola has long been an admirer of De Jong – he wanted to sign him when he left Ajax for Barcelona in 2019 – but City are not currently thought to be interested. A swap deal would make things simpler though…

Next stage of Foden development

Should City sell Bernardo without signing a replacement, then we could see the next stage of Phil Foden’s development.

Since breaking through into Guardiola’s first-team squad, Foden has largely played on the left wing and sometimes in the middle as a false nine or striker. Throughout his youth career the City academy graduate played as a number eight, but so far Guardiola has felt he hasn’t quite had the composure or pausa to play that role regularly at the top level.

If Bernardo leaves then it could be an opportunity for Foden to make the move back into midfield. This season he’s played as an eight in a number of games for England, impressing with his superb passing range and vision. A position change would also allow City to still have a left-footed midfielder, keeping that balance in their attack.

Foden dropping deep could also mean that Jack Grealish gets more minutes on the left wing, something that would no doubt help his adaptation to Guardiola’s system.

The next generation

The departure of Bernardo could see Cole Palmer and James McAtee earn more minutes in the midfield, although it’s unlikely that Guardiola would start them in the most important games.

If Bernardo leaves then Kevin De Bruyne will have to carry more of the creative burden, so in the ‘lesser’ games there could be chance for the duo to come in and give him a rest. It’s a similar story with Ilkay Gundogan – the German will turn 32 in October, so careful management of his minutes could afford more opportunities to the young duo.

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