Bernardo and Brighton: A £9m Brazilian signing where reality did not meet expectation for club or player

When Bernardo signed from Champions League outfit RB Leipzig in 2018, there was a sense of optimism that the left sided full-back would add additional quality to Chris Hughton’s squad.

Wednesday, 20th January 2021, 5:10 pm
Bernardo joined Brighton in 2018 for a reported £9m

However, following his loan departure to RB Salzburg, there’s a nagging sense of a wasted opportunity by both the player and club.

The Brazilian full-back’s services were acquired for £9 million after he had impressed in both the Bundesliga and in Europe’s premier competition. Unfortunately, Bernardo rarely made a lasting impression on the first team for a variety of reasons.

Despite making his 50th Seagulls appearance in the 1-0 defeat to Manchester City, he had only registered two league starts across the 2020/21 campaign.

Michal Karbownik’s arrival at the club arguably signalled the end for the Brazilian, as the Poland international left-back was recalled from his spell at Legia Warsaw.

The 19-year-old signed a four-year deal with Albion on transfer deadline day last summer but was immediately loaned back to the 14 times Ekstraklasa champions.

Much like Bernardo, Karbownik also has experience in the Champions League and has made two appearances for his former club in qualification rounds against Linfield and Omonia Nicosia.

With Bernardo being six years his senior, Graham Potter may have one eye on the future by bringing back Karbownik.

During his debut campaign, Bernardo showed signs of promise within his statistics. Across his 22 Premier League appearances in 2018/19, he averaged 2.8 tackles and 1.5 interceptions.

He also averaged three clearances per game but disappointed when going forward after registering just one assist during the season.

The following season, however, the Brazilian failed to expand on his steady progress. His average tackles and interceptions dropped to 1.9 and 0.4, respectively, while averaging just 1.4 clearances per game.

Bernardo’s form and confidence may have wilted away due to the club’s managerial change in styles in 2019. Potter took the reigns at the Amex stadium and revolutionised the way the team has played.

The former Swansea City manager stamped his own style by bringing in his own players while adapting those who were already there.

Unfortunately for the Brazilian, he has never seemed to fit in with Potter’s formation or style of play as he is neither a modern-day, flying wingback nor a conventional centre-back.

This has seriously impacted his performances and appearances for the club since the end of Hughton’s final season.

Despite this, Bernardo was one of Albion’s better performers against Pep Guardiola’s side, which makes his situation at the club even more baffling.

At the Etihad, he showed impressive desire by making six tackles and retrieving the ball via one interception. The sad truth is, however, that these types of performances for the club have been few and far between.

Potter now has a difficult decision to make in regards to the left-back position. Karbownik is now Albion’s only out-and-out defender in that position, which places huge pressure on relatively young shoulders.

Dan Burn may get an extended run in the team in that position in crucial games that will set the scene of the relegation battle after Albion bought themselves some breathing room after impressively beating Leeds United at Elland Road.