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Newcomer making waves

Bernat: Silent, strong and ever-present

When Juan Bernat arrived at Bayern in mid-July, he was arguably the least known of the club’s summer signings, recognised only by experts and especially Spanish football watchers. The feeling was he had been recruited to bulk out the squad, but just four months later the 21-year-old left-sided player has become a regular for Germany’s biggest club. Along with Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm and David Alaba, Bernat is the only man to feature in all 15 competitive games so far.

“Playing so often right from the start has come as a surprise for me too,” the Spaniard confessed on Monday prior to squad training at the Säbener Strasse, admitting he had not known what to expect on leaving his hometown club Valencia for Munich. “You're obviously a little bit nervous when you arrive in a new country at a club like FC Bayern with so many great players. You can't be sure how it will go in the early months,” Bernat reflected.

Silent but strong type

Juan said his welcome had been nothing short of perfect and described his first few weeks in Bavaria with something approaching awe. “The team and everyone at the club helped me and made it easy for me to find my feet,” he said. “I was very surprised at how friendly, modest and helpful my new team-mates were. We're talking here about World Cup winners, big stars, the best players in the world."

The 1.72 metre man is more of the quiet type who lets his boots do the talking. “I've always been rather silent and reticent, and that goes for the dressing room too,” he revealed. “But the minute I'm out on the pitch my shyness disappears and I emerge from my shell.” It's an attribute fully appreciated by boss Pep Guardiola, and it is backed up by the stats: Juan’s pass completion stands at 89 percent, the seventh-best score in the Bundesliga – the top six places are also held by FCB players.

Reserves of potential

“I'm feeling very good and I know Pep trusts me. I want to repay his faith,”  continued Bernat, whose consistent excellence has brought him to the attention of Spain head coach Vicente del Bosque. The U–21 international received a first call-up to the senior squad in early October, earning his maiden cap in a 4–0 Euro 2016 qualifying victory over Luxembourg and scoring his first goal for his country in the process.

It was a perfect start for the player who was a left winger in his youth, although he feels he still has a long way to go. “I can definitely improve in a number of areas. Defending is where I currently see the most potential, but I'm looking to improve my overall game anyway,” Bernat reported. “He’s inventive and quick with a good left foot and a lively approach,” David Alaba observed.

Bernat’s play has taken on an increasingly attacking quality of late. He has two assists to his name and has already shot at goal on 12 occasions: of all the Bundesliga's full-backs, only Alaba has loosed off more efforts at goal (15). He is third in terms of crosses delivered on 17 behind only Alaba (20) and Rafinha (18). He has yet to break his goalscoring duck in Germany, but he is working on that too. And maybe his maiden goal in a red shirt will arrive this Wednesday when Bayern entertain AS Roma in the Champions League.