Arsenal are closing on a deal for Atletico Mineiro midfielder Bernard.
Bernard is a little man with a growing reputation.
The attacking midfielder is just 5’4” but stands head and shoulders above his teammates in terms of talent.
His technique is immaculate.
Bernard is able to control a pass and spin away from his defender in an instant. He is a tenacious and tricky dribbler armed with exquisite vision and incisive passing.
Bernard’s technical excellence is beyond debate. The surprise is the toughness and resilience he’s already shown in his short career.
As a youngster, Bernard was rejected twice by Atletico Mineiro, as the Belo Horizonte club were concerned over Bernard’s small stature.
Speaking to FIFA.com, Bernard said:
It was a big obstacle for me and I think any kid my age would have given up. The two times they sent me away I asked them if I could come back. All I wanted was to be a football player.
Bernard’s persistence paid off. At 13, Atletico took him on. By 18, he was a first-team player.
Bernard is predominantly right-footed but can play in any of the three positions just off the striker. He is happiest as a central playmaker but is equally comfortable when deployed on the wing.
His form has improved dramatically since the arrival of his idol Ronaldinho at Atletico Mineiro in 2012.
Ronaldinho and Bernard combine brilliantly. Their interplay has become the key component in Atletico’s attractive attacking play, creating a constant supply line for the prolific Brazil international, Jo.
Atletico Mineiro players have a good pedigree with Arsenal. In 2002, Arsene Wenger raided the Brazilian club to sign defensive midfielder Gilberto Silva, who went on to be a crucial figure in Arsenal’s 2004 title-winning side.
Arsenal signed Silva after "The Invisible Wall" shined in the World Cup. Next summer, Bernard could be set to do the same: The youngster already has five senior caps and is expected to help form Luiz Felipe Scolari’s 2014 squad. Signing him now could help keep both the price and the competition down.
At 20, Bernard’s potential is frightening. He has the frame and the skill of Andrey Arshavin but significantly greater work-rate.
The Arsenal player he bears closest comparison with is Santi Cazorla.
Cazorla is arguably Arsenal’s most important player. The Spaniard started an incredible 47 games in 2012/13 and was involved in every single Premier League match.
At times, the strain seemed to take its toll. In the latter portion of the season, Cazorla looked jaded.
Signing Bernard would enable Wenger to rotate Cazorla with a younger but equally skillful player.
Eventually, the prodigiously talented Bernard could even take over as Arsenal’s primary playmaker.