Manchester City stand on the brink of history as they chase the second leg of what would be English football’s first domestic treble but, for Portugal international Bernardo Silva, it is an accomplishment he has experienced before, even if he does not have the medals to show for it.
The 24-year-old playmaker’s first campaign in professional football was as a member of the Benfica squad that won the first — and so far only — domestic treble in the history of Portuguese football in 2014.
As a teenager, Silva was limited to small substitute appearances in one game in each of the three competitions — the Primeira Liga, Portuguese Cup and Portuguese League Cup.
But, given the rarity of domestic trebles in the European football landscape, the fact he is two victories away from his second in six years with Pep Guardiola’s side is a remarkable achievement.
“Well I didn’t play very much, I played only one game in each competition so it didn’t mean as much as it would right now for me,” said Silva of his Benfica season.
“But, yeah, to win three, all the domestic competitions, is so difficult because we play in one of the most competitive leagues.”
City can become the first team in a decade to make a successful defence of their Premier League crown with victory at Brighton on the final day of the season, adding to the League Cup they won by defeating Chelsea on penalties at Wembley in February.
An FA Cup final date with Watford follows in which success could mean City complete a hat-trick of trophies no English team has ever managed in a single season.
“We play against fantastic teams, especially this season against this Liverpool team that was unbelievable,” added Silva.
“It was very tough for us. Hopefully we can win this last game on Sunday and celebrate the title.
“In Portugal, I celebrated more as a fan because I am a Benfica fan, than as a player because I trained three or four times with them, played five minutes in each game so it didn’t mean as much as a player as, for example, this season will if we win all the competitions.
“We haven’t done it yet, two games to go, we have to focus on Sunday because it is an amazing achievement if we win back-to-back titles.”
– ‘Make history’ –
Manchester United famously won a treble of league, FA Cup and Champions League trophies in 1999, but lost to Tottenham in the quarter-final of the League Cup that season.
Many leading nations — including Spain, Italy and Germany — only have two major domestic trophies, rendering a treble impossible.
But, while relatively commonplace in Scotland, the only other major European leagues in which trebles have been won are Portugal, with that Benfica effort, and France where Paris Saint-Germain have been treble winners three times in the last five years.
“I think it says a lot,” said Silva when asked what City’s season meant in terms of the development of the squad.
“It says a lot about this squad, a very young squad that will try to win over the year as many titles as possible.
“We’re very hungry to make something different for this club.
“So this club has never won two Premier League titles in a row, we want to do it this season. We want to win all the domestic competitions — never happened in this club as well — and we want to try to make history. That’s our goal.”
On a personal level, a City treble would allow Bernardo to collect some silverware for his efforts — something he was denied in Portugal because of his lack of appearances.
“No, I didn’t get any in Portugal,” said Bernardo. “I hope this season I can get some medals!”