Bruno Fernandes’ performances for Sporting Lisbon this season have led to the attacking midfielder being linked with Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea.
It’s not hard to see why Fernandes is in such demand. Just look at his stats from 2018-19: 53 appearances, 32 goals, 18 assists.
As his Portugal and possibly future City team-mate Bernardo Silva put it: “Bruno is a great player. He has made a fantastic season with many goals, many assists that are not normal for a player of his position, he has the spearhead numbers and we will see what happens at the end of the season.
“[He is a] player who can play in other championships.”
But while the numbers are quite frankly stupid, it’s not the cold, hard facts which interest us, it’s his majesty with the ball at his feet that we’ve fallen for.
This season has seen Fernandes discover a rich seam of gold within himself reminiscent to when Gareth Bale became Gareth Bale in his final couple of seasons for Tottenham.
There was a prolonged period in north London when everything Bale tried came off and he could do no wrong – think his last-minute winner at West Ham when he decided to simply spank one into the top corner from 30 yards because it was most efficient method of scoring.
Fernandes has entered that zone for Sporting in 2018-19, meaning his goals can be neatly split into three categories.
Exhibit A – These are the ‘normal’ efforts which any goalscoring midfielder worth their salt laps up; arriving into the box late to get on the end of cut-backs, chipping in with the odd header, converting penalties, being in the right place at the right time to take advantage of any mistakes or ricochets.
Regulation fare but worth their weight in gold to ease the burden on the striker of putting the ball in the back of the net. Take, for instance, his effort against Nacional in December in which he combines a couple of those aforementioned aspects. Easy enough, right?
Exhibit B – Free-kicks. Fernandes is really good at these. In February he went on a Messi-esque run of scoring three in four games.
Sometimes he dinks them over the wall from the edge of the box so the ball lands neatly in the bottom corner. Sometimes he whips it past the goalkeeper’s near post. Sometimes, like against Benfica in February, he smashes them in from really f*cking far out.
Exhibit C – The thunderb*stard. Sure, some free-kicks can also fall into this category, but Fernandes’ own tribute to Bale vs West Ham is spectacular in its own right.
There are lots of these we could choose from, but this strike against Guimaraes when he was still making a name for himself last season particularly stands out.
Here's the first of Bruno Fernandes' wonder-goals this evening. This could be a huge year for the youngster. pic.twitter.com/QgQcUdU9YU
— Marino Peixoto (@MarinoPeixoto) August 19, 2017
If City do add Fernandes to their ranks – although Manchester United are heavily mooted – to play alongside Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Phil Foden, it’s going to feel a little unfair.
But it feels like a matter of time before the 24-year-old finds himself playing on a bigger stage, and we just hope that’s the Premier League.