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Boyish Bernardo brings touch of class to Portugal

"I just want to have fun out there," says Bernardo Silva, the young Portugal playmaker fast earning a legion of admirers, including Deco and futsal star Ricardinho.

Deco and Ricardinho share their thoughts on Bernardo Silva (centre)
Deco and Ricardinho share their thoughts on Bernardo Silva (centre) ©UEFA.com

Remember when you were just a kid, playing football with your friends come rain or shine like there was no tomorrow? Some things stick with us forever but for Bernardo Silva it is not a question of childhood memories; it is his way of life. As he told UEFA.com: "I just want to have fun out there."

Blessed with a mesmerising left foot and PlayStation moves that leave opponents trailing in his wake, the Monaco playmaker has already left his mark on the tournament, producing a man-of-the-match display to help Portugal to a 1-0 win against England in their Group B opener at this U21 EURO.

A full international and also a key player in Monaco's run to the quarter-finals of the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League, Bernardo has been handed high responsibilities for someone just 20 years old, but his approach remains the same as it was when he chased a ball in the streets and playgrounds of Lisbon.

"Personally I always try to have fun whenever I'm on the pitch," said Bernardo, who was once dubbed the "little Messi of Seixal", Benfica's training base, by club legend Fernando Chalana. "To play football is, without a shadow of a doubt, the one thing that I love doing most.

"I've been used to playing the way I do since I was a little child and I won't change my style no matter if I'm playing in a tournament like this one or just training. Of course I try to be as focused as possible but, at the same time, I play with passion and always try to have a good time out there."

UEFA.com went in search of some expert views on the new golden boy of Portuguese football. Touted by many as Deco's heir in the senior national team, it seemed only right to ask the man himself about such comparisons. "Bernardo is developing quite rapidly and I really think he profited a lot by moving to Monaco," said Deco, one of the most gifted Portugal players of recent years and a UEFA Champions League winner with Porto and Barcelona.

"He's tremendous on the ball and has a lot of confidence for someone so young. What I like more about him is that he's not afraid of taking risks and making mistakes. He had a terrific season and now we're seeing all that at the Under-21s."

There was also high praise from a man who knows all about shining in the tightest of spaces, this year's best futsal player in the world, Ricardinho. "He is one of the very few players that I actually think could be a major hit in futsal," said Ricardinho."When the ball lands on that left foot it seems like it is glued to it. He has an amazing technique and he can become one of the best players in the world.

"When I see him play I often say that he reminds me a bit of myself," added Ricardinho, a Spanish champion with Inter Movistar. "Besides all those qualities, Bernardo also seems very humble and a very polite kid, which means it is easier for him to be successful in anything he does with his life."

Perhaps what makes Bernardo so special was highlighted in Friday's training session. The players who had featured in the opening game took part in a low-key warm-down session and left the pitch while their colleagues were starting a mini-game. All except one. Bernardo sat on top of a coolbox by the touchline, smiling, cheering and giving out advice. His eyes told their own story. A tale of a young kid eager to be out there playing with his friends and team-mates. Some things never change.