Adrián Bernabé: The La Masia Talent Finding a New Lease on Life at Parma

Birthdate: May 26, 2001

Foot: Left

Height: 5’7

Nationality: Spain

Contract Expiry: June 30, 2027


La Masia, technical, composed. When you hear these three phrases you instantly think of some of football’s best playmakers. Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, and Cesc Fàbregas are just some of the many midfielders that have come through the famous Barcelona academy. Adrián Bernabé may not be the next Xavi, but he certainly has a chance at being one of Spain’s next-best creators.


In 2018, to the frustration of Barcelona, Bernabé left on a free transfer to Manchester City. Upon his arrival, he managed an assist against Bayern Munich in pre-season. During his stint at City, he was only given one first-team appearance against Oxford United in the Carabao Cup.


The Rise and Fall of Parma


Due to the little time in the first XI, Bernabé decided he needed to bring his talent elsewhere. For again, no fee, Bernabé’s services were brought to Parma. Parma, who had just found themselves rock bottom of Serie A, were now rebuilding a damaged squad ready for a season in the second division.


2021/2022 – 2022/2023


To start his career at Parma, Bernabé faced surgery which kept him out for 20 straight match days. After his recovery, he went straight into the starting line-up but only began to make full 90-minute appearances in the last few games of the season. Regardless of this, the left-footer still showed immense quality. Here are some of his key stats:


  • 0.4 nPG p/90 (top 2%)
  • 41.12 carries p/90 (top 5%)
  • 60.38 passes p/90 (top 5%)
  • 3.08 tackles p/90 (top 9%) 


These are just a few of his impressive stats from his debut season as a first-team player. Keep in mind that at this time he was only 20 years old. Moving on into the 2022/2023 season, Bernabé did not slow down, and he continued to show off his incredible capabilities.



Although Bernabé was stringing together some amazing performances, not as many teams looked at him as expected. However, he still got looks from AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Atletico Madrid.



If teams weren’t looking at Bernabé then, they definitely were now. Adrián started the most recent season with two appearances off the bench… where he scored in both games. After that, he went straight into starting (nearly) every game. Throughout the season the Spaniard was played in a few different ways.



As you can see, he was fairly spread in the midfield positions (and roles).



Looking at his heat map confirms this, with a slight lean to the upper right side.




Without a doubt, dribbling is one of Bernabé’s strongest attributes. In the most recent Serie B season, he produced some incredible moments.


Bernabé receives the ball (image 1) and beats the defenders (image 2)


Perhaps one of football’s most underrated values is the confidence that teammates have when they pass a certain player the ball. When you watch Bernabé play in Serie B and for Spain, you can easily see the trust that his teammates have in his technique and control.


Not only does Adrián find himself checking in for the ball in tight spaces, he’s often finding his way out. Looking at his 56 passes received p/90 (top 4%), this checks out. With this, he has a superb record of carrying the ball to progress the team up the field. His great turning speed and acceleration allow him to breeze past defenders without any issue.


Bernabé uses his acceleration to pass a defender


Again, this is further backed by his data; 


  • 44.86 carries p/90 (top 4%)
  • 223.61y total carrying distance p/90 (top 5%)
  • 2.36 carries into the final third p/90 (top 8%)
  • 2.33 take-ons attempted p/90 (top 19%).


As you would expect from a La Masia talent, Bernabé is also not short of body feints, stepovers, and tight controls that put defenders to the floor.


Bernabé does a step-over to beat the defender


Bernabé performs a body feint to take out two defenders


At 5’7″, he is a player that’s hard to even touch, and his low center of gravity is massively important to his craft.




Again, as you would expect from a La Masia talent, Bernabé has magical passing control and vision. Sometimes lost in the modern game, you never find yourself asking “Why not him!” and “How did he not see that run?” when watching Bernabé. Before receiving the ball he is always scanning, finding the best possible pass… you can tell it’s in his DNA. Provided here are some stats from the season just ended, but to get a good idea of his passing talent you just have to watch:


  • 50.88 passes completed p/90 (top 11%)
  • 980.61y passing distance p/90 (top 6%)
  • 7.16 long passes completed p/90 (top 3%)
  • 0.17 xAG (top 13%)
  • 1.88 key passes p/90 (top 10%)
  • 7.37 passes into final third (top 1%)
  • 9.46 progressive passes (top 1%)
  • 287.6y prog. passing distance (top 7%)


Bernabé checks his shoulder (image 1) and finds a through-ball to goal


Bernabé pulls off an inside chop pass to his no.9


Unreal stuff.




Scoring goals will always be the most important skill in football. Bernabé, who has already showcased his incredible dribbling and passing expertise, is also a superb goalscorer. Last season Adrián scored 8 goals in the Serie B, racking up 0.28 non-penalty goals p/90… this puts him in the top 2% for midfielders in the second division. This is some of his shooting data from the same year:


  • 2.43 shots p/90 (top 4%)
  • 0.14 npxG p/90 (top 14%)
  • Overperforming by 0.14 xG (top 4%)


Bernabé’s threat from outside the box helps add dynamism to his team’s attack, and troubles opponents. He loves to crash into the box too, and finds tight and driven finishes from a teammate’s cutback.


Bernabé entering the box and finding the cutback (this resulted in a goal)


Not only can he finish during live play, but his set pieces are always on the money. Throughout his youth and senior career he has been his team’s primary free-kick taker. Again, this shows his team (and coaches) trust in his ability. In a game against Como in the Serie B playoffs, Bernabé scored TWO direct free-kicks in FOUR MINUTES.





Due to his position and what he is asked to do on the field, Bernabé is not asked to defend much. In his debut Parma season when he was playing more of a defensive role he averaged 3.08 tackles p/90 and 6.31 ball recoveries p/90. However, in 2023/2024 he went down to 1.95 tackles p/90 and 4.8 ball recoveries p/90. Despite his height, he is relatively good in the air and wins 53% of his aerial duels.


Bernabé tackles and recovers the ball in his box


You could argue that his defending needs improving, but he still has the work ethic to fight and win his team the ball when needed.


Tactical Responsibility, and Where He Could Play Next


Parma plays a fairly high press, and like to win the ball in the opponent’s third.


Parma’s front-foot setup


A big part of why Parma can press this way successfully is Bernabé’s defensive and pressing efforts. He averaged 0.38 tackles p/90 in the final third (top 14%), which just proves his work ethic in the opposition’s half.


A frequent position for Bernabé is at the 10, where he finds space between the lines which allows his team to find him open and create attacking sequences.


Bernabé receives the ball with a defender on his back


Another way Adrián is played is at the 6, sometimes in a double pivot. In this role, he is often tasked with ball progression (whether that be through dribbling or passing). He is usually in a position where his teammates can safely give him the ball, where he then creates opportunities for the forwards.


Bernabé drops back to make himself open for the player with the ball


Bernabé can also play as a box-to-box where all of his talents come to fruition, but his sometimes undesirable stamina often keeps him away from this role. Bernabé’s skillset is very translatable to any team and any league and allows him to play many roles for his squad. The position that gets the most value from him, however, is the 10. His technical ability allows him to have an unmatched influence on each game, and he brings a threat to every desirable department.


Not only will he provide beautifully deft and seamless passes, but he can take on defenders and find whatever space available. Adrián’s off-the-ball work is also hugely important, he is not afraid to put his all into winning the ball, whether that be in his half or the opponents. Bernabé is the player everyone wants to be when they grow up, the one everyone trusts, the player that finds opportunities from nothing, and he makes it all look so easy.


A Defining Meeting: The Irriducibili and Lilian Thuram


As mentioned, Bernabé’s match intelligence and excellent execution is a skill that surpasses any division of football. Some teams that might need his services are Inter Milan, who are going to need to replace their departing/aging midfielders (primarily Henrikh Mkhitaryan), Juventus, who need any sort of creativity in midfield, and Aston Villa, who may need to finally let go of Emiliano Buendía (and are losing Nicolò Zaniolo to a loan end).


To conclude, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bernabé pop up at a top, top team in the next few years of his career. Any club would be fortunate to watch such a player on a weekly basis, and he will certainly be a player who’s appreciated anywhere he goes.


By: Ollie Enock / @ollieswriting

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Image Photo Agency / Getty Images

Stats and images provided by: FBref, SofaScore, Serie B