Tuesday, July 14, 2015


"City think they've bought David Villa" - Alex Ferguson, then manager of Man. Utd

On 17th October 2010,  a player of small stature, who had made his bruising debut in a 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane on the opening day of the season, announced his arrival on the football pitches of England to an already doubting public. 
It involved a flourish of blazing colour that all who were there will remember vividly.

In many ways it embodied an entrance to the English football scene that shed bright light on just what kind of player City had managed to purchase that summer.
It is worth remembering, in those days of early influence from coach Roberto Mancini, that City's side had a very different look to it than the team millions across the planet are familiar with today.
That only Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure remain in Manchester from that afternoon in Blackpool seven and a half years ago is a clear indication of the broad turnover of staff that has taken place at the Etihad in recent times. David Silva, who did not even make the starting eleven against Blackpool on that brisk Sunday afternoon, is also still there of course, a constant reminder that if you are good enough, you are big enough even in the rough and tumble of English football.
"People were saying about me that I was too small to be a success with City, but I reminded them that Spain had become World Champions with little players..."         - David Silva
With a side featuring the likes of Jerome Boateng, Wayne Bridge and Emmanuel Adebayor, City struggled manfully with the dual challenges thrown up by an Irish Sea gale and a gutsy newly-promoted Blackpool side. Midway through the second half Mancini made a change that would bring a sumptuous new flavour to the palate of the English football-watching public.

The floundering Adebayor was replaced by David Silva, as far removed from a like for like swap as could be imagined, but nevertheless one that would have eye-opening consequences.
The game, being transmitted live on television, was about to feature an injection of such urgency and accuracy from the tiny Spaniard that everyone would take note.
In two flashes of ice cold  inspiration, the little man from the Canary Islands would embed his skills in the psyche of a nation. First, he slid Carlos Tevez through for the opening goal with one of those slide rule daisy cutter passes in from the left flank that have since become such a trademark of the player that it is considered an anomaly if ten minutes pass without him threading  a ball through a gap that no one thought existed.
Having announced his arrival, he then played in James Milner for a shot onto the bar, set up Carlos Tevez for his second goal of the match and hit the post himself after drifting through the Blackpool defence with a subtle shimmy of his hips. If City fans were busy congratulating themselves on the stroke of luck that Silva was not in fact David Villa, there was even better to come.

The stage was now set for the piéce de resistance.
With Blackpool making a spirited fightback, as the game thrashed exhaustedly towards its conclusion, there came a moment that would hoist the little man's reputation in giant neon letters. Receiving the ball from Milner near the touchline on the right wing, Silva jinked inside Stephen Crainey, leaving the defender sprawling, shifted his weight effortlessly to the other side leaving David Vaughan in a similarly undressed state, before turning back onto his left foot and with one laser quick movement, curling a left foot shot around Charlie Adam and inside the far post of goalkeeper Matt Gilks. 
In one sublime, serpentine movement, the era of David Silva in the Premier League was upon us.
Silva curls in at Bloomfield Road

Born and raised in Arguineguín, a tiny Canarian fishing village, whose name translates aptly into the English quiet water, David Silva is one of those players, who let their feet do the talking for them. A tiny left-footed midfielder, he is deceptively resistant, royally gifted and not disposed to showing off for the sake of a few television cameras.
It is the Manchester derby of 2011-12. When Silva slots Edin Dzeko through on goal with a diagonal volleyed left foot pass that opens the home defence with a surgeon's precision, setting  the big Bosnian striker straight through on goal, to some it may have looked a little like a Hollywood pass. The seemingly extravagant delivery was put through full on the volley, with laser precision, with his side already - quite incredibly - 5-1 ahead, but this was no piece of arrogant show-boating.

It was a slice of improvisation of the very highest order. To get a quickly moving ball to go right where Silva intended it in the shortest possible space of time, he had executed one of the passes of the season. Without needing to break his stride, Dzeko ran on to the pass and struck City's final goal in the never-to-be-forgotten 6-1 win that confirmed the changing of the guard in Manchester's football fortunes that Yaya Touré's FA Cup semi-final winner six months before had hinted at.
Purchased by Mancini to bring artistic colour to City's middle orders, as the club built towards a trophy-winning future under the Italian, he has not only achieved that with something to spare, but has also surpassed anything seen in that area of the pitch for as long as anyone in Manchester can remember.
Whilst the legendary Colin Bell's game was constructed from coruscating straight-forward runs, driving passes and a cornucopia of well taken goals, Silva adds the subtle arts to a powerhouse midfield once directed by the elephantine Yaya Touré, now led by the flourishing talents of Kevin de Bruyne, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling.

The little Spaniard can be found twisting and turning, orchestrating and prodding,vaguely left and - when needed - tucked inside just behind the darting runs of Sergio Aguero or Gabriel Jesus, floating to the right to link with Kyle Walker and Sterling or even leading the line himself. His link with Sane this season has taken City's attacking possibilities onto another level altogether, the German not the first player to be made to look a world beater by the service he receives from the metronome Silva. 
His innate ability to maintain clean possession of the ball in the tightest of corners and patiently wait for an opening has become legend. The ultimate sign of proper genius - praise from supporters of rival clubs - now comes his way with predictable frequency. Silva, it seems, is loved and coveted by all.
His is the vision that picks passes that nobody else sees, even from high in the stands, threading them through the eye of the needle to set up City's rapacious front runners.  His angles are pure Pythagoras, his lines of sight from another world.
From that robust White Hart Lane debut, when worldly wise commentators quickly proclaimed that "this was probably not an appropriate arena for such a slightly built player." he has grown into one of the Premier League's greatest jewels.
The opposing manager on the occasion of his first game, Harry Redknapp, was heard to say  in the after-match press conference: "City have paid £24million for Silva. He doesn't look a £24million player to me...". Herein lies the crux of the English problem. Cast doubt on anything that is foreign to your way of thinking. Silva, it is fair to say, has returned that one straight back over the net with quite a dollop of extra top spin.
Within a short space of time, Silva had fully adapted to his new environment and doubters more numerous and vocal than Redknapp and Ferguson were being forced to eat their premature words.
It had become quite apparent to all that here was a man, small of frame but robust of character, able to  withstand the roughest sliding tackles and the most evil elbows and simply came back for more. He picked himself up, non-plussed, when clattered to the ground by burly defenders. He continued to find space where there seemed to be none and find team mates where there appeared only a thick wall of opposing players. In short, Mancini and City had unearthed a true diamond.
Today he proudly possesses two Premier League medals, an FA Cup winners medal and two League Cup winners gongs to prove his success. He is a World Cup winner and double European champion. Champions League success has until now evaded him 
Curiously, Silva's first European goals for both City and Valencia, were scored against Salzburg, the latter in 2006 Champions League action, the former in the 2010 addition of the Europa League. His effortless style fits the slower pace of European competition, just as it has flourished in the helter-skelter of England's idiosyncratic domestic game.
The body language, the disguised touches, faints and dribbles as if the ball is attached to his foot by an invisible cord, make him a true master of the passing trade. He ghosts in and out of the danger area without ever giving the impression that someone is capable of catching him up. He takes the challenges and gets on with things. For that matter, he has never been averse to sticking his foot in for the cause himself.
His worth is inestimable to a City side, which regularly finds itself playing teams stacking two rows of four in front of them, nervous of going toe to toe with a side now well renowned for its devastating attacking intent. Silva is one of the main reasons for this defeatist opposition mind set. It his malevolent left foot that has sent the Premier League cowering. 
It is to Silva that this City side looks to for its inspiration when all seems lost, when the opposition gates are bolted tight and no other way can be found through or around them. And more often than not, he is in possession of the key. That this tiny conveyor belt of exquisite through passes actually started life as a goalkeeper seems almost too ridiculous to be true.
Born to a Canarian father and a Philipino mother, Silva has made the journey to being a Spanish national team mainstay and treasure of the two-times Premier League champions via SD Eibar and Celta Vigo, where he was on loan for two separate spells, and the club that nurtured him through their youth ranks, Valencia CF.
When, on 14th July 2010, City announced the capture of Valencia's gifted little playmaker, they immediately awarded him the same number 21 shirt he had worn in Spain, in an initial effort to allow the player to feel at home. Such fripperies, it soon transpired, were not of much use to a man, whose frail physique belies his ability to tough it out in the most hazardous of situations and whose steely determination is built on far more than happy coincidence and familiar comfort. His outstanding performances of late while waiting to see if his family life might one day return  to normality is testament to a character beyond reproach. It is this strength of character that has seen him overcome those early doubts and rise to historical prominence on a global scale.
For David Silva is one of those players, as rare as they are magnificent, who chooses all by himself when and how to make things happen on the football pitch. He will go down as surely as we all breathe air as one of Manchester City's greatest ever players. 


  1. The comment on Silva that always amuses me was the one made by Fergie who sneered "they think they have bought David Villa" Our Merlin definitely knocked the sneer off his face 😀

  2. Good enough to go into the rewrite.


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