An “unbelievable season” is how Bernardo Silva described his previous campaign.
It started with the FA Community Shield as Manchester City beat Chelsea, and then followed the EFL Cup, FA Cup and Premier League in a historic haul for Pep Guardiola’s side.
Bernardo was not finished there, though, as he helped Portugal lift the inaugural Nations League title by overcoming the Netherlands 1-0 and being named Player of the Tournament in the finals.
But, be it any player or team, it can be difficult to scale those glorious heights again.
One player Bernardo uses as an inspiration and example of showing consistency and class to remain at the highest level year on year is his international team-mate and Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Of course,” he told Sport360 exclusively. “That’s why he is one of the best players ever, if not the best.
“Cristiano is an example [for everyone]. It’s difficult to reach the top, but it’s even more difficult to keep the same level every year. But that’s what we all have to try to do.
“It’s never easy when you come back from a season where you win five titles. The expectations are high and you have to keep it up. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to improve every day, to be better and to live up to those expectations.
“It’s difficult to keep the same level. The season that I had last season was unbelievable and obviously I want to do better than I have, but sometimes it’s not easy. I’ll try to improve, I’ll try to show that form again.”
Bernardo, a £43 million buy from Monaco in 2017, looks to be getting there. Used centrally rather than on the wing, the 25-year-old put in an impressive midfield display as City overcame second-placed Leicester 3-1 at the Etihad on Saturday.
It was a timely reminder of City at their brilliant best as they bid to make inroads into Liverpool’s commanding lead at the top.
“It was like the old City yeah,” added Bernardo, who has scored five times for the club this season, but just once since a hat-trick against Watford in September.
“It was good to give a good performance to our fans. They deserve it because it hasn’t been a good first half of the season for us.
“Not just the results, but I think some performances were not as good as we wanted them to be.
“Yeah, it’s good to be back, it’s good to put on a good performance and to give them the three points – that’s important right now. It was great to get this win.
“It was a different position for me [against Leicester], but I played in this position before. Last season if I remember I played in both games against Liverpool in this position and against Manchester United too so I’m used to playing in both positions. I think it worked well and was a great game for us.
“Leicester are a great team. I think they are one of the best sides in the Premier League and they’ve been showing that.
“They are still ahead of us, they are second we are third, but it was great to play against a great team like this and to have the control, to have the ball, and to win.”
While it would be a remarkable achievement for City to overhaul Liverpool and claim three successive championships, they have been notoriously strong in the second half of previous campaigns where they have won titles.
Notably, the first was in 2012 when they pipped Manchester United through Sergio Aguero’s iconic injury-time winner over QPR and then lifted the trophy in similar final-day fashion two years later.
Last season they overturned a seven-point deficit to deny Liverpool. After a Boxing Day defeat to Leicester, they won 30 of 32 games in all competitions, losing just once in the league at Newcastle and at Spurs in the Champions League.
“Of course,” said Bernardo when asked if City – who also face Manchester United in the EFL Cup semi finals and Real Madrid in the Champions League last 16 – needed to be as strong this time around.
“We know we have to improve, we have to be better and that’s what we will try to do. We have to try to be better and better every day, every game. Hopefully we can do a better second half of the season than the first one was.
“We know that we are not in a good position in the Premier League, but we have the cups, we have the Champions League as well. So we just have to keep winning – and we have to keep winning in the Premier League.
“It’s one of the most important competitions for this club, for the fans. We have to respect that and even if we are not in a good position [to win the title] we have to keep going until the end.”
Tomorrow’s visit to Wolves will provide a further indication of their form and hopes.
The hosts, who stunned City 2-0 at the Etihad in October, also feature several of Bernardo’s Portuguese compatriots, including keeper Rui Patricio, frontman Diogo Jota and midfielders Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho.
“He’s a big fan of mine,” joked the City man of the latter. “Most of them I know, especially Moutinho because I played with him three years at Monaco and he’s a great player.
“It will be a pleasure to play against them once again. They are a great team and been showing that for the past two seasons since they came into the Premier League.
“It’s always tough to play against Wolves. We lost here at home against them so it’s proof that it’s never going to be easy.
“They’re very concentrated at the back, very organised. But we want to win, we need to win and we will keep trying to put on the good performances as we have done.”