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When you are one of the top clubs in the world, you are always after top talent. Bayern are no different. The latest capture of theirs? Juan Bernat. The young and pacey wingback was brought to the Allianz Arena this summer from sunny Valencia. It was a surprise move for most Bayern fans as they already had arguably one of the best left backs in the world, David Alaba, who himself has a LOT of years ahead of him. It looked suicidal at that time, for a young and ambitious young left back like Bernat, to have chosen Bayern over a club where he could have got regular football. But that’s not been the case has it?

Juan Bernat Bayern Munich

Juan Bernat has started 6 games so far for the German champions, including both the Champions League fixtures and made 2 appearances of the bench too. His presence has allowed David Alaba to assume a more central and free role, as the versatile Austrian is able to now drift in to more attacking positions and needless to say, he has been sublime at it too. Young Bernat has been awarded with a call up to the Spain squad. He probably might not play due to the presence of Jordi Alba, but it needs to be said that Alba may not be the first choice left back for long.

WHO IS JUAN BERNAT?

It was in the year 2000, when Juan Bernat first joined Valencia’s youth setup. He was a 7 year old kid, who was very passionate about football, but little did he know he was going to become one of the most sought after players and one day play for Bayern Munich. Bernat rose through the different ranks at Valencia’s youth setup and came through the Valencia B side to the first team for whom he made 51 appearances.

Bernat is often compared to his predecessor at Valencia and now his competitor for the left back spot in the national side, Jordi Alba. Well, you can’t help but notice the striking similarities in the steps both have taken to grow as a player. Both the players started out as a dynamic and pacey left winger who have now shifted to a more defensive role which makes use of their pace and width that they offer.

For Bernat, it is an honour to be compared with someone who makes the first team at FC Barcelona and Spain on a regular basis, as he stated in an interview “It’s an honour as well as a huge compliment for me. He has achieved and done some great things for Barcelona and Spain

Bernat, at 17 made his first senior appearance for the reserve side in the Tercera division. He helped in getting promoted to the Segunda division. His performances were not gone un-noticed as he was now being more closely monitored by the coaching staff and soon he earned a call up to the first team in 2011.

Bernat made his first appearance for the Valencia first team in 2011 during pre-season. The game was against Sporting CP from Portugal and he ended up scoring in a 3-0 win for the Los Che. The coaching staff of Valencia were happy with what they had seen of him in pre-season and he earned his first professional contract at Valencia, until 2015.

Bernat made his competitive debut for the Los Che against Racing Santander at The Mestalla on 27th August 2011. The game ended in 4-3 win for Valencia, but it wasn’t exactly the dream debut Bernat would have hoped for as he was replaced at half time with the score 2-1 in favour to the visitors. He then made his second appearance in the league in January 2012 against CA Osasuna in the 1-1 draw. Bernat continued to make lot of appearances for the reserve side in the youth games. He scored his first goal for Valencia in competitive games in the Copa Del Ray game against UE Llagostera as Valencia won 3-1.

Talent-Radar-Bundesliga-XI-2015

Juan Bernat topped our list of Top 20 Young Players of 2014, showcasing his impressive year from his exploits with Valencia until his move to Bayern Munich. The Spaniard was voted at 2nd and 3rd place in the Youngster of the Season and Defender of the Season category at the 2014-15 End of Season Bundesliga awards by Outside of the Boot‘s readers and was also named in the Bundesliga U-22 Team of the Season 2014-15..

Juan Bernat has also made his mark on Outside of the Boot‘s Talent Radar feature, making an appearance in a Talent Radar Team of the Week and getting into the Top 10 Defenders’ list in the Talent Radar Player Rankings.

STYLE OF PLAY, STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES

Bernat became a regular for Valencia in defence, since Aly Cissokho left them for Merseyside on a season long loan. Bernat was provided with the perfect mixture to blend in to the defence too with Jeremy Mathieu having the capabilities of covering for the wingback during counters. This gave Bernat a lot of freedom of movement and it showed in his performances as they improved with every game.

Bernat’s height could be a disadvantage when it comes to areal duels. 1.72 meters isn’t that tall, but the youngster’s positional sense and calmness with and without the ball makes him not only someone skilful of building up the play, but also capable of holding position and keeping the shape of the defence. He had a won a healthy amount of duels last season in the La Liga as he had racked up 52% successful duels. For a comparatively short left back, who misses out on areal duels, the fact that he could amass 52% of successful defensive duels is pretty good.  The most memorable and standout of his performances was the one against Real Madrid earlier last season. The match that ended in Valencia’s 3-2 loss after many delightful moments. Bernat, despite the loss, was arguably one of the best players on the pitch, kept Real Madrid’s star-filled attack in check and dominated the left side of the field in a manner you rarely see from a 20-year-old.

It was not until 2013 that Bernat became a first choice left back. For the Spanish youth sides, Juan Bernat played the role of a left winger, scoring a few goals. For Valencia B, in 2010-11, Juan Bernat ended up netting 6 goals in 24 appearances. For Spain U-17 he scored 4 and Spain U-20 he netted once. He may not be the type who scores week in week out, but he does provide the width and stability on the wings like no other youngster present in the game at the moment.

Due to his pace and great ball control, Bernat adds dribbling as one of his major attributes, which is not a major surprise considering the positions he has played so far in his career.  Another visible attribute of his game is his ability to find a pass. Bernat loves to make quick short passes and move the ball up the field quickly. His pace and vision enables him to do it and is probably one of the major reasons as to why Pep Guardiola signed him up. Bernat fits the system perfectly. He is far away from being a complete product, but he has got the aptitude to play in the Pep Guardiola philosophy. For a left wing back though, it is surprising to see that one of Bernat’s does not prefer on crossing the ball though he is very accurate on most occasions. This is probably due to the fact that Bernat loves to work in between the spaces present on the field with short and defence opening passes and sometimes good pacey dribbles. But if Bernat does crossing more often than he does, Bayern could be very dangerous down the left flank on counters. When a player has 86% pass completion in the La Liga, maybe you could excuse the fact that he prefers to not cross the ball but play in a well waited ball for the second striker to lash on to. So far, it looks like Bayern are trying to work on a system where they can make use of his crossing and passing, as Bernat has started to take a few more pops at crossing the ball than he usually did, the sooner he starts doing more of it, the more menacing he will be to handle.

Juan Bernat is far from ordinary. In an interview in 2011, Bernat recalled the advice given to him by his parents: “To stay humble, to always have your feet on the ground, and to work hard.” The very methods which he has stayed true to and it has brought him a long way so far in his footballing career. One does not simply play for Bayern without being a hard-worker who wants to prove himself on the pitch week in, week out and that is exactly what Bernat does. The Spaniard has a bright future ahead of him and with the guidance of Pep Guardiola in a club like Bayern, the stage has to be utilised to its utmost. Act 1 has passed on perfectly. It’s now in Bernat’s hand to have the next 2 acts of his career to progress in the same manner and emerge out as a player who will be remembered by footballing fans for a long time.

Expert Talk

Here’s what Michel Munger, editor-in-chief of FC Bayern Central, told Outside of the Boot about Juan Bernat

Juan Bernat is a highly specialized player, whose role is to act as a wing-back on the left flank. He goes back and forth with the flow of the play, handling both attacking when in possession and providing defensive coverage without the ball. His best skills are covering ground with pace, short passing, taking the game to the opponent and trying to choke its attacks before they develop.

Granted, Bernat had a slow start in the first few weeks of the season. Nevertheless, his style is increasingly blending with the strengths of the team. On a few occasions, he was among the best players on the pitch, alongside Xabi Alonso. That may only be the beginning since there is much promise in the young wing-back.

Written by Alankrith Shankar


Alankrith Shankar

Alankrith Shankar

Alankrith Shankar is a 19 year old FC Bayern Munich and Germany supporter. His favourite player is Bastian Schweinsteiger. He has also written previously for AliveForFootball.com
Alankrith Shankar

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