Portugal playmaker Bernardo Silva speaks to UEFA.com about everything from Rui Costa and Andrea Pirlo to his childhood and playing football with a smile on his face.
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Who is Bernardo Silva? Anyone asking that question a fortnight ago is likely to have a far better idea by the end of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship. The Monaco playmaker has been pulling the strings throughout for a Portugal side who will face Sweden in Tuesday's final, only enhancing his already lofty reputation with two man of the match displays already. UEFA.com spoke exclusively to the 20-year-old on the eve of the Prague decider.
UEFA.com: What is your first memory of playing football?
Bernardo Silva: I always loved to play football. I remember playing a lot in the backyard of my grandparents' and with my friends at school. Ever since I can remember, football has always been part of my life.
UEFA.com: What aspects of your childhood, of playing football as a young kid, remain now that you are all grown up and a professional?
Bernardo: I think many things from those days remain with me. I try to play football exactly the same way I learned to when I was just a young kid. Of course the responsibility is completely different now, but I think that even if we are aware of that responsibility and all the interest surrounding football, players must play with the same joy that we felt when it was us, a ball and the street. Personally that's what I always try to do.
UEFA.com: Who is your favorite player of all time and why?
Bernardo: Maybe Rui Costa because he played for Benfica. He was a symbol both at Benfica and in our national squad for many years. So yes, I would say Rui Costa as my favourite Portuguese player. At international level I would have to go with [Zinédine] Zidane. For me he was the best player in the world while I was growing up and he also played more or less in the same position as me. Those were my two football idols and the two players that I loved watching most.
UEFA.com: What was the biggest influence on your career?
Bernardo: I think it was the education my parents provided me. They weren't the ones who taught me how to play football but they were there for me every single day, giving me discipline, and that's equally important to my success in football.
UEFA.com: Who was the best player you played with and the toughest opponent you faced?
Bernardo: I won't include Cristiano Ronaldo because I was with him only once in the national team and also because he's on a completely different level to anybody else. I had the pleasure of training with Pablo Aimar at Benfica, which was a great experience for me, and now at Monaco I have to mention Ricardo Carvalho and João Moutinho.
Regarding my toughest opponent, I played against Andrea Pirlo this year in the UEFA Champions League and all I can say is that it's not easy at all to get the ball off him! In the French league I really enjoyed playing against Marseille's [Gianelli] Imbula. He's really good.
UEFA.com: If you had to pick one attribute or quality that defines you best a player what would it be?
Bernardo: Maybe my ability to take the right decisions on the pitch. I always try to make the most intelligent decision when I'm playing, whether it is the right time to increase or slow down the tempo, to all push forward or to play the ball back in order to organise our game.