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Chelsea favorites among dozens of suitors for free agent Bernard — report

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The 25-year-old former Brazil international left Shakhtar in June after his contract ran out

2014 FIFA World Cup Training Camp - Day 5 Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Tiny little Bernard basically fell off the radar after the 2014 World Cup and Brazil’s 7-1 semifinal defeat, which was his first ever competitive international start and the last time he would ever pull on the famous yellow jersey.

That’s not entirely true of course, at least the part about falling off the radar. Bernard has not gotten a call from the Selecao since. But he’s continued to play and play pretty well for Shakhtar Donetsk, continuing their modern tradition of being the “Most Brazilian team in Europe”.

Bernard was supposed to be the latest in the production line of young Brazilian talent at Shakhtar, following the likes of Willian, Fernandinho, Douglas Costa, Alex Teixeira, Luiz Adriano, and others. He arrived in the summer of 2013 for €25m, which was a fair chunk of change back then especially for a 20-year-old. Chelsea were linked as well throughout that year, especially as David Luiz considered him a “little brother” in the national team setup.

As it turns out however, Bernard was never quite settled or happy in Donetsk. He didn’t get along with his coaches at first, then Russia annexed Crimea and war broke out, and then ... well and then it’s a bit unclear as despite not being happy and pushing for a move, somehow he managed to see out his entire five-year contract. He was never going to sign an extension and yet Shakhtar didn’t sell him either. And so, he simply left them in June when his contract expired.

That’s right, Bernard, at all of 25, is a free agent. It’s certainly an unusual situation and one that could hint at deeper problems in the background. Or maybe it’s just an odd occurrence and now whoever signs him up, gets a sweet deal with zero transfer fee (and Bernard actually gets relatively higher wages, too, in this case, since there is no fee to consider for the new team).

Who might that team be? Benfica were strongly linked, but balked at his wage demands. Teams in Brazil and all across Europe are also in the conversation, but most reports agree that the Premier League beckons now. And according to the latest of those, Chelsea have taken the lead in that regard over Arsenal, Liverpool, West Ham, and a few others.

Unlike the free transfer of third goalkeeper Rob Green, a move for Bernard could be an impactful and smart signing. Even if he were to get paid as much as Eden Hazard, Chelsea’s total financial commitment would be just £10-11m per year.