I AM beginning to wonder if Paulo Bernardo is Oliver Abildgaard with a better tan.

I hope I am miles off target, but I just can’t see the attraction of Celtic’s on-loan Portuguese midfielder.

Yes, I realise there will be many who disagree with me and, yes, I am aware Bernardo and Abildgaard are too entirely different players with contrasting styles doing separate jobs in the engine room of the team.

The 6ft-plus Dane was brought in by Ange Postecoglou on a temporary transfer from Rubin Kazan late in last season’s summer transfer window. He arrived on a year-long deal that was scrapped in January following his persistent failure to convince.

NOW YOU SEE ME…Oliver Abildgaard in a rare first-team appearance before his loan deal was cut short.

Abildgaard was signed as a defensive middle-of-the-park operator and through unfortunate circumstances – Callum McGregor’s injury against RB Leipzig that sidelined the captain for 11 games – it looked as though he was being lined up for an extended run in the side.

It didn’t take Postecoglou too long to suss the shortcoming in the player’s qualities and Matt O’Riley was hastily tasked with a change in his usual style of play to take over from the team’s onfield leader in an anchorman role.

Nine appearances after his arrival in Glasgow, Abildgaard was packing his bags again at the turn of the year. He is now plying his trade in the second tier of the Italian league with Como.

There were sky-high hopes when Bernardo was recruited on September 1 and fans wondered if he could emulate the eye-popping form of his one-time Benfica B team colleague Filipe Jota.

There has been absolutely no hint of the playmaker reaching those levels. It’s fairly obvious Brendan Rodgers’ thought process about the player’s languid ability doesn’t coincide with mine and I doff my cap to the Irishman’s far superior talents in judging the qualities of a footballer.

I also acknowledge I may be ordered to wear the big pointed hat with the letter D prominently displayed on the front and be told to go and stand in the corner for a day or so if my judgement is found to be a tad wayward.

Trust me, folks, I would love to be proved wrong. For the life of me, though, I just cannot fathom what Bernardo is supposed to be contributing to the team.

HEAVENS ABOVE…Paulo Bernardo looks to the skies after a misguided shot at goal.

It’s obvious the manager prefers the Portuguese performer to David Turnbull and he demonstrated that once again on Tuesday when he started with Bernardo in a must-win encounter against Lazio in Rome and the Scotland international was stuck on the bench.

The former Motherwell player was introduced to the action in the 86th minute, just moments after the hosts had scored their second goal. Not too much time to make an impact on proceedings.

Maybe Turnbull, who is out of contract in June, is already heading for the Parkhead exit and Rodgers is aware the player bought by Neil Lennon in August 2020 has no future at the club. Maybe his destiny has already been decided. Who knows? All will be revealed at the end of campaign.

Likewise with Bernardo. I have been informed it would take “a significant fee” for Celtic to buy the player, who is 22 next month, from the Lisbon club who had their fingers burned with their £6.5million valuation of Jota. We all know what happened next.

After making his initial breakthrough at the Stadium of Light, Bernardo was loaned to Portuguese second-tier outfit Pacos de Ferreira with apparent little prospects of continued game-time at his parent club.

He was returned to Benfica before arriving on these shores in a late move. He has made nine appearances so far and the stats show he has failed to contribute a goal or an assist.

NO WAY THROUGH…Paulo Bernardo strikes a shot against the legs of Ross County keeper Ross Laidlaw.

Accuracy in shooting, I suspect, is not one of the player’s strengths. He played for just over an hour against Ross County in Dingwall last month and had four efforts on goal. Three from around the box were more of a danger to overhead pigeons than Ross Laidlaw and the other was a close-range attempt that hit the keeper.

I doubt if his stay at the champions will be cut short and I’m fairly sure he will escape the embarrassing fate of the aforementioned Abildgaard.

I can only hope I am made to eat my words when the shrill of the referee’s whistle pierces the Mount Florida skies to signal the completion of the Scottish Cup Final on the iconic date of May 25 next year.

It will be no arduous task, believe me, if Celtic are celebrating a league and Cup double and Paul Bernardo is nominated as Man of the Match at Hampden.

I have been wrong before. I thought Moritz Jenz looked a very capable central defender.

Perhaps that’s another story for another day.

Click Here for Comments >

About Author