Richard Buxton: Portugal's future looks bright with shiny Silva
Man City midfielder adds Nations League crown to sweep of domestic club titles
Bernardo Silva is like bubble gum. Almost everything sticks to him.
Teammates of the Manchester City playmaker chose that particular nickname because the ball appears glued to him at all times. And now, it's not just the ball that he attracts.
The spotlight is increasingly drawn towards Silva, too, following Portugal's 1-0 Nations League final victory over Holland yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Cristiano Ronaldo may retain the trophy-lifting duties for his country, but no longer owns the occasion as he did previously.
In a season where he swept almost all before him with City, winning the English Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and Community Shield, the 24-year-old now stands at the vanguard of a burgeoning new dynasty for Fernando Santos' side heading into their European Championship title defence next June.
Pep Guardiola has often favoured those that tend to be overshadowed within his all-conquering teams.
At Barcelona, faced with household names including Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, he routinely singled out Pedro Rodriguez as his greatest source of pride.
Industrious and understated players are noticed more by the Catalan than those who announce themselves with the occasional bombast.
The Portuguese midfielder is proving no different, with his boss talking him up as the best player in the EPL last season.
Every game is a "masterpiece" in the City manager's eyes. Listening to him talk, it would be easy to mistake the former AS Monaco man for Messi.
Guardiola's outlook is clearly not universal. If it was, Silva would have comfortably eclipsed both his City teammate Raheem Sterling and Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk, an opponent at the Estadio do Dragao yesterday, to the league's assorted Player of the Year accolades.
Belated recognition in the form of the Nations League's Player of the Tournament award reflected the starring role that he has taken on for Portugal, as they fully exorcised the ghosts of Euro 2004 by finally winning a major international tournament on home soil.
In the absence of fireworks in the much-hyped tactical battle between van Dijk and Ronaldo, Silva provided an ideal alternative with slaloming runs and an instinctive pass for Goncalo Guedes to produce the host nation's all-important winner on the hour mark.
Holland, meanwhile, continue to lack a focal point in attack and were devoid of creativity from midfield, despite Frenkie de Jong's best efforts.
For all the strides Ronald Koeman has made with his nation, the limitations underpinning his tenure at Everton have not disappeared.
Holland will still be among the favourites to reach next summer's Euro 2020 Finals, heralding an overdue reboot of "Total Football" after lying dormant for the best part of five years, but are still some way from replicating the heroics that Koeman enjoyed during his playing career.
But Portugal's stock is already firmly on the rise and no longer indebted solely to Ronaldo. The five-time Ballon d'Or winner was involved but barely influential on proceedings in Porto.
In Silva, Guedes, Bruno Fernandes and Joao Felix, a new golden generation has emerged.
At club level, Bernardo Silva is also stepping out from beneath the shadows of David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne.
Neither of City's influential midfielders have been able reach the level of being a Ballon d'Or finalist, even if his namesake is considered to be the "magician" of east Manchester.
If his Iberian counterpart succeeds where the Spaniard failed, the apprentice will finally become the master.
PORTUGAL:Patricio, Guerreiro, Dias,
Fonte, Semedo, Carvalho (Neves 90+3), Pereira, Fernandes (Moutinho 81),
Guedes (R. Silva 75), Ronaldo, B. Silva
HOLLAND: Cillessen, Blind, van Dijk,
de Ligt, Dumfries, Wijnaldum, F. de Jong,
de Roon (L. de Jong), Babel (Promes 46), Depay, Bergwijn (van de Beek 60)