Just under a month ago, Paulo Bernardo was struggling to secure a spot in the Celtic starting 11 during a 4-1 win against Hibernian, only playing the last eight minutes as a substitute.

What has followed from the Portugal under-21 international is nothing short of incredible. Bernardo, who was on the bench in back-to-back defeats against Kilmarnock and Hearts, was given the chance to turn around his Celtic career on December 23rd against Livingston. This opportunity came after a disappointing start to the first six months of his loan spell, during which he struggled to secure regular game time despite a long-term injury to Reo Hatate.

Although Bernardo went under the radar that day in a competent display against David Martindale’s side, it is clear that the chance to play consistently domestically has reinvigorated his Celtic career.

Interestingly, Bernardo started in three of Celtic’s six Champions League games but only started in two Scottish Premiership games until December, raising questions about his goal-scoring and creative abilities against low blocks.

The Portuguese midfielder has hit back at early season critics in sensational fashion with goals against Dundee and Rangers and an incredible assist for Greg Taylor against St Mirren.

Aspects of his game, which were questioned since his arrival, he has shown when given consistent game time. He has the ability to finish chances inside and outside the box, break lines with through balls, and rise to the occasion when pressure is put on his shoulders, none more so than with Celtic in their worst league form domestically in a decade, losing back-to-back league games for the first time since March 2013.

Soccer Football – Scottish Premiership – Celtic v Rangers – Celtic Park, Glasgow, Scotland, Britain – December 30, 2023 Celtic’s Paulo Bernardo celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

It is no coincidence that, when Brendan Rodgers gave Bernardo the chance to prove himself, Celtic have found their best form of the season, securing four straight league wins with only one goal conceded.

In some aspects, Bernardo is an upgrade on Hatate, with his defensive work rate, physicality and pressing ability superior in helping Celtic to be a more defensively sound team.

Despite appearing certain to return to Benfica at the end of his loan spell, Bernardo has shifted the narrative surrounding his time in Glasgow in recent weeks. With Hatate at the Asian Cup, he will be given more time to cement himself as a first-team starter.

With confusion surrounding how much Celtic agreed with Benfica as the option-to-buy fee at the end of his loan spell, he is certainly worth £1.5 million at the time of writing. However, he would have to prove himself further in the second half of the season if the Hoops were to pay the £6.5 million, first rumoured to be agreed. If the case is that Celtic has a £1.5 million option to buy, they should snap up Bernardo permanently as soon as possible.

By Michael Shearer


  1. Wouldn’t class it as an incredible turn around in form regarding Paulo, moreso the incredible strange decision making on Rodgers behalf concerning Paulo imo?
    How Paulo was the go to player at CL level, and nearly every available other option was used before Paulo at SPFL level, made any sense still remains a mystery to myself upon the decision making of Rodgers?
    Thankfully it seems to be finally resolved for the remainder of this season, even if unclear currently about the longer term still?
    Personally think Paulo would be a very decent investment for the club, and worth paying the money for, especially in longer terms to benefit the squad imo?
    Not the only decision making from Rodgers that has remained questionable to date, and rocki starting to develop into another one currently?
    So hopefully Rodgers can get some of the decision making a bit better during January, than some of the match day decision making he’s made within the SPFL to date this season currently imo?


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