Ján Bernát is a very exciting talent at Slovak club MSK Žilina, who are competing in Fortuna Liga. In recent months, the club has faced serious financial issues, and as such, Bernát is one of a number of highly sell-able assets for the club.
A versatile advanced midfielder, Bernát can play on either wing, but seems much stronger when playing in the middle, either as a central or attacking midfielder. The Prešov-born youngster originally started learning his trade at the local 1.FC Tatran Presov youth academy, before he was quickly signed by Žilina and brought into their academy. Bernát quickly climbed the ranks at Žilina and made his senior debut in the 2018/19 season against Zlate Moravce, where he came onto the pitch for the last 28 minutes but still managed to make a good impression.
This season, Bernát has collected a total of eight goals and one assist from 18 games in all competitions, and while this year may prove to not be his breakout season, he has been extremely impressive; and surely in the very near future, he can join his former teammate Robert Bozenik in making a big move to a top European club to play at a much higher level.
Just from first glance, it is apparent that Bernát isn’t exactly a very strong player. Standing at 1.80m (5’11”) with a lean body build and not particularly developed upper, core, and lower muscles yet, Bernát is not the type to outmuscle opposing players, hold off defenders, or win a jostle for the ball both in the air and on the ground. Oftentimes, he’ll be seen being muscled off in a challenge – however, he seems quite good at staying on his feet, especially when on the ball. This owes a lot to his good body balance and coordination
Bernát has excellent agility as well, which allows him to turn and change directions quickly. And to add to that, he’s explosive over short distances and has a neat touch and control of the ball. The combination of these abilities can be extremely useful as he often finds himself in tight spaces and has to quickly manoeuvre to exit pressure when on the ball.
The midfielder certainly seems to have good spatial awareness as well as tactical understanding, knowing where he should position himself and where to move. He usually scans a couple times before receiving the ball and he uses the information he gathers very well, consistently putting him one step ahead of his opposition.
Bernát is both an intelligent and elegant player, often showing his attacking flair and creativity as well as confidence by improvising in difficult situations. By doing so, Bernát also displays impressive technique on the ball.
From what can be seen, Bernát is extremely good in picking out which player to pass to, and he seems to time his passes really well too, releasing the ball at the correct time in order to avoid the offside trap by the opposing team whilst rendering his teammate free in an abundance of space behind the backline.
Playing mostly in advanced areas – and for a team with a tendency to use short passes to maintain possession – Bernát rarely attempts a long pass. He’ll occasionally attempt them, however, to switch play and help his team escape pressure, as well as break quickly by moving the ball from an overloaded area to a more open space. Bernát is strong at creating chances and helping his team progress the ball by being the “link” in between the opposing team’s lines.
Aside from his playmaking ability, Bernát is quite a prolific goalscorer. The 19-year-old’s good space recognition makes him very good at separating himself from his defender via various individual and group dismarking strategies. The young Slovak likes to get involved a lot in advanced areas and often enters the opposing box, usually arriving rather late to attack a cutback cross. To top it off, he has a good instinct and anticipation and he is a quality finisher, very effective in front of goal.
Defensively, however, Bernát is rather weak. Aside from his lack of strength, a lack of aggression and willingness to commit into duels or tackles means that he’s not very proficient in defence; although his ability to position himself and read the game well can be quite helpful.
Bernát, of course, still has some improvements that need to be made in order to become a better, more effective player. Though he clearly has shown that he has the skills, he is prone to losing the ball due to poor decision-making when dribbling, such as forcing himself to attempt a dribble despite better options in that situation. He’s quite a risk taker and will attempt a few risky passes rather than playing it safe. This also means more possession lost – although if successful, the rewards will be plenty.
At the tender age of 19, Bernát is already playing regularly for the senior side of Žilina, who are one of the top clubs in Slovakia. They regularly finish in the top half of the table and they have a number of high-quality talents in the side. For Bernát to be able to break into the first-team squad and impress everybody in his first season is certainly impressive.
If developed properly, Bernát can become a top player in the future. Judging by the fact that he could be signed for free, with the potential to become a useful squad member, a regular starter – or to be sold on for a decent fee in the future, snapping him up quickly would be a very smart move.