Everton have beaten a number of clubs to the signature of Brazilian attacker Bernard, who has been available on a free transfer since leaving Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk at the end of last season.
The diminutive winger is one of a long line of Brazilian players to pass through the Shakhtar ranks, with Premier League players such as Fernandinho and Willian also spending considerable time with the 11-time title winners.
He became the club’s record signing in 2013, joining for around £22 million. It was an unusual step for the side who usually look for bargains in the Brazilian market in order to sell and make a profit at a later date, but only after these players have helped them win something.
Bernard was different in that his arrival meant a big outlay for a player who was already beginning to attract attention from clubs around Europe – Shakhtar used the money they received from selling Henrikh Mkhitaryan to Borussia Dortmund in the same summer to fund the purchase.
Back in Brazil Bernard played for the Belo Horizonte based side, Atlético Mineiro, and during his final season with the club was a revelation.
He was part of a dream-team front three. He was the young up and coming star, former Manchester City and Everton striker Jô was the goal-getting frontman and a certain Ronaldinho was, well, Ronaldinho.
The link-up play between the trio guided Atletico Mineiro to a Copa Libertadores title in 2013 and put Bernard on the shopping lists of many European clubs.
It was a slow start for him in Ukraine, though the flashes of talent were always evident in his darting runs, close dribbling, and direct attacking play. On his game there are fewer more exciting players to watch and he’s similar in style, and stature, to Napoli’s Italian international Lorenzo Insigne.
Trouble in Ukraine around the time he joined the club didn’t help, however, and neither did the 2014 World Cup where he was unfortunate to be part of the 7-1 defeat at the hands of Germany, which will go down in history for all the wrong reasons.
He was unlucky with his timing, both in terms of his move to Shakhtar and his time with the Brazil squad. Though the 7-1 defeat wasn’t his fault he hasn’t played for Brazil since.
As time went by, he grew into his role at Shakhtar and adapted to his surroundings. The 5ft 5in pocket dynamo began to show his full promise, and became one of Shakhtar’s best players towards the end of Mircea Lucescu’s time in charge and after the arrival of Portuguese boss Paulo Fonseca.
Despite his improvement Bernard never hit the heights of that 2012 season in Brazil where he notched up double figures for both goals and assists. But his game is about more than just statistics.
It is about dribbling, acceleration, directness, and unpredictable attacking. It’s about entertaining the fans.
Put him alongside a goalscorer and in front of another player who can play quick, incisive passes in to his feet and he’ll thrive.
The link-up with Richarlison could make or break Everton’s season, and if the pair hit it off from the start, Goodison Park could be in for one of its most entertaining campaigns in several years.
An unlikely source of support could come from across Stanley Park, and in a roundabout way, Liverpool may just help Everton become a better team.
There is no doubt the Brazilian contingent in the city will help each other settle. No matter their club allegiances they’re all likely to spend some time together when they aren’t playing football.
Jürgen Klopp’s side added two new Samba stars to their squad this summer in the shape of Fabinho and Alisson. And this pair, plus Bernard, will be looking to the likes of Richarlison and Roberto Firmino to help them settle into life in Liverpool.
Everton aren’t the only club to have made intriguing attacking signings in this transfer window, with clubs up and down the division getting their TV money out.
But in beating a number of sides to Bernard by paying him a handsome wage and no doubt a substantial signing on fee – which means this transfer isn’t really free as the reports will suggest – they are getting one of the more sought after players in Europe.
This free spirit may not be free but that doesn’t mean he won’t be worth every penny.