Pedro Moutinho believes Celtic should sign Portuguese midfielder Paulo Bernardo and let Brendan Rodgers unlock his full potential.

Moutinho read Bernardo's cryptic Instagram message to the Celtic supporters after the Scottish Cup final. However, the former Falkirk striker is not convinced that Scottish football has seen the last of the 22-year-old in Celtic's colours. Bernardo took to his Instagram account in the aftermath of the 1-0 Scottish Cup final win that landed Rodgers' men the 'double'. He shared various pictures from his time in Glasgow's east and said: "Grateful for this season. Thank you very very much for all the support."

Portuguese media outlet O Jogo have claimed that the Celtic hierarchy is still 'evaluating' and mulling over a permanent move for Bernardo. The 22-year-old has been told by Benfica boss Roger Schmidt that he is not in their first-team plans going into next season. Moutinho has seen enough of Bernardo to know that he could hack it in Scottish football's top flight should he wish to return to G40 in the summer. He is adamant that Rodgers is the ideal manager to take Bernardo to the next level.

Bernardo bagged four goals and three assists in 33 appearances for Celtic in all competitions but among those displays were some serious contributions. He featured in all six Champions League games. He bagged a goal in the 2-1 Scottish Premiership victory over Rangers in December. Bernardo set up Adam Idah's goal at Ibrox in the 3-3 draw after coming off the bench and he was largely instrumental in the Republic of Ireland striker's winning goal at Hampden Park in the Scottish Cup final after he drove forward late in the game and unleashed a shot that Jack Butland could only spill into the path of Idah.

Moutinho insists that Rodgers knows a quality player when he sees one and that he wouldn't be surprised to see his compatriot seal a permanent deal with the men in green and white.

READ MORE: Why Celtic can cut 'Real Deals' for Bernardo and Idah

Celtic Way:

The 44-year-old said: "Paulo Bernardo is a player who can do very well for Celtic. The Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers rates him highly, which is always a good start. Bernardo is the kind of midfielder who likes to keep the ball and he is a ball player. If Celtic signed Bernardo permanently it would represent a top-quality piece of business.

"He is still only 22 but has proved that he can handle the pressure this season. You only need to look at his highlights reel from this season. In December, he scored a goal in the 2-1 win against Rangers at Celtic Park. He also set up Adam Idah for his goal in the 3-3 draw against Rangers at Ibrox in April and it was Bernardo's late drive forward and shot at goal that led to Celtic winning the Scottish Cup "All of those are big moments in the season for Celtic. Whilst Bernardo may not have featured as much as he would have liked in the first team, he has shown that he can cope with playing with a club of Celtic's stature.

"He does need to play more consistently to reach his full potential. He is ready now but there is a lot of improvement and development to happen in his game and Rodgers sees that too. With Rodgers being contracted to Celtic for another two years at least it would be an exciting enough project for Bernardo should the club take up the option-to-buy clause.

"He strikes me as the kind of player who will be a good fit for Celtic moving forward, especially with Rodgers at the helm playing the manager's brand of football. Bernardo can play as a 6, 8 or 10 and could handle playing in all those positions for Celtic if they wanted him to do that. He is a tremendous player.

"Under Rodgers, you could see Bernardo hit his levels in terms of his potential and the Celtic manager would help progress him as a player. I don't think it would be too difficult to convince the player that his immediate future lies with Celtic. Bernardo featured in all six Champions League matches last season and bearing in mind the new look Champions League and changes to that tournament format will be coming in next season then he may want to hang around and fancy a crack at that.

"I am sure that playing for Celtic has been a great career move and a wonderful experience for Bernardo. He will have enjoyed playing in the rarefied atmosphere at Celtic Park, especially in the derby matches against Rangers. Playing for a club like Celtic is something special in Scotland but the reality for many players is that their ambition is to play in the English Premier League. Scotland is on England's doorstep and by playing well for Celtic, Bernardo knows he could potentially get a move down south if he does well.

"It's a big consideration for all parties but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Bernardo rejoins Celtic in the summer."

READ MORE: The player Celtic captain McGregor wants the club to sign

Celtic skipper Callum McGregor gave his midfield teammate a ringing endorsement by insisting that he was the exactly kind of 'hungry' player that fitted the club model and he hoped that Bernardo could clinch a return ticket to Parkhead. McGregor said: "Paulo has been an important player for us. He has big technical qualities and he's a young kid who wants to do well. That's the type of profile we want at the club. Hopefully, we can bring him back.

"He's a great lad as well. He works ever so hard and he's a part of the group we have. Obviously, the club will decide what happens, but that's certainly the profile we want. You want hungry players who are technically good and can come and make an impact as well."

Celtic Way:

Whilst there is talk of Celtic also trying to possibly renegotiate the option-to-buy fee, Moutinho admits that anything less than £6.5 million for Bernardo would represent an absolute bargain for Rodgers' side. Moutinho, who now works as a football consultant based in Madeira, said: "Bernardo has been told that he is surplus to requirements at Benfica as the competition for a place in the team's midfield is fierce. That is no slight on the player's ability it's just that Benfica is looking to offload more than just Bernardo.

"If a fee has already been agreed upon by Celtic to sign Bernardo from Benfica via the loan option to buy then it is hard to see how they can renegotiate the price. However, Celtic did do business with Benfica regarding Jota but the Portuguese team protected themselves in terms of sell-on clauses when the winger joined Al-Ittihad in Saudi Arabia last summer. In terms of the price, they sold Jota for £6.5 million, and then Celtic punted him onto Saudi Arabia for £25 million, which earned Benfica their share of the profit. There could well be a similar vibe going on here with Benfica and Celtic concerning Bernardo.

"Celtic have first refusal at £6.5 million and in these kinds of deals there is usually no wriggle room but it may depend if there is other interest in Bernardo too. Snapping up Bernardo for £6.5 million would still be a good deal but say Celtic could land him for a fee in the region of £4.5 million then that would be a great deal. In that case, it would then come down to the player's wishes and if he wanted to return to Celtic.

"If he is happy in Glasgow and he genuinely wants to stay at Celtic then all parties will get around the table and thrash out a deal."

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Back in January, Rodgers spoke publicly about Bernardo for the first time. He said: "I'm delighted with the emergence of Paulo. There is an agreement with the club, an option for us to activate that if we want to do it.

"He came in and gradually he has learnt the principles of our play. He’s been fantastic. He has got an old head on young shoulders. He’s a top professional. I can see him emerging and growing now as a person, feeling more confident amongst the players. He now has real clarity in how we play and how we work - and you see his game flourishing. He’s been excellent and I expect him to get better.

"We’ll assess it. I’ll sit down with him at some point towards the end of the season and take it from there. Do we know the fee involved? Yeah. Clearly, the player would have to agree as well, it’s a two-way situation. I can see Paulo is really enjoying his time here.

"He is improving and developing. Is the fee realistic? I’m not going to say what it is but, absolutely, otherwise it wouldn’t be in place.”

In terms of Bernardo, it's crunch time for Rodgers and Celtic. It's time to get realistic.