On 17th October 2010, David Silva announced his arrival on the football pitches of England.
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 Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany remain in Manchester from that afternoon in Blackpool four and a half years ago is a clear indication of the massive 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 sight to the British football-watching public. The floundering Adebayor was replaced by David Silva, hardly a like for like swap, but nevertheless one that would have eye-opening consequences.
The game, being transmitted live on television, was about to feature an immediate injection of urgency and accuracy from the tiny Spaniard.
In two flashes of utter, 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 as much a trademark of the player as his low key Spanish accent.
Having announced his arrival thus, he 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. The stage was now set for the piéce de resistance.
With Blackpool making a spirited fightback, as the game drifted exhaustedly towards its conclusion, there came a moment that would hoist the little man's reputation in neon capital letters. Receiving the ball from Milner near the touchline on the right wing, Silva jinked inside Stephen Crainey, leaving him sprawling, shifted his weight to the other side and left David Vaughan in a similarly distressed 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.
"In Manuel Pellegrini we have a man, who encourages us to attack and score goals. I think you can see that many of our players are shining brightly under him...."
- David Silva, February 2014
|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 was no piece of arrogant show-boating, but in fact 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 over their fiercest rivals that heralded a changing of the guard in Manchester's football fortunes.
Purchased by Mancini to bring life to City's middle orders as the club built towards a trophy-winning future under the Italian, he has not only achieved that, but has also surpassed anything seen in that area of the pitch for as long as anyone in Manchester can remember.
Whilst Colin Bell's game was constructed from coruscating runs, driving passes and a cornucopia of well taken goals, Silva adds the subtle arts to a powerhouse midfield directed by the elephantine Yaya Touré. The little Spaniard can be found twisting and turning, orchestrating and prodding on the left hand side and - when needed - tucked inside just behind the front striker.
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 genius - praise from opposition supporters - now comes his way with embarrassing 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.
Making his debut in a rough and tumble first day of the season battle at White Hart Lane on 14th August 2010, Silva was seen to be given a robust buffeting by the home side's irascible defenders and many commentators quickly proclaimed that "this was probably not an appropriate arena for such a slightly built technician".
The opposing manager on that occasion, Harry Redknapp, was heard to say "City have payed £24million for Silva. He doesn't look a £24million player to me..."
How right he was.
Within a very short space of time, Silva had fully adapted to his new environment and many more doubters were being forced to eat their premature words.
It had become quite apparent to all that here was a man with a small frame that knew how to take a bruising, withstood 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, five seasons later, El Mago proudly possesses two Premier League medals, an FA Cup winners medal and a League Cup winners trophy to prove his success. As for all of City's squad, however, there remains a space for one very important addition to this domestic clean sweep: a Champions League medal.
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.These days his European foes are of a higher caliber altogether.
Silva's artistry and resistance are now only too well known amongst the Europe's top defenders, who continue to try to plug the inspiration at source. Those diagonally delivered passes, almost always skimming close to the ground, almost always pushed delicately forward with the left foot, caressed, juggled into position, remain as much of a nightmare for opposition players to defend as they were when he first burst upon the scene against Spurs and Blackpool.
The body language, the disguised touches, feints and dribbles as if the ball is attached to his foot by an invisible cord, make him a true master of his 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 is worth a king's ransom to a City side, which regularly finds itself playing teams stacking up two rows of four in front of them, nervous of going toe to toe with a side renowned for its devastating attacking intent. Silva is one of the main reasons for this mindset in the opposition. He is the first player to be targeted by the opponents' midfield enforcer, the first to feel the keen slap of a well aimed tackle to those dancing feet.
It is to Silva that this City side looks 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, Manchester 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 coziness.
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.
|The King of the Kippax|
In a colourful and meandering 130 year history at eight different venues, Manchester City FC's directors have only once felt it necessary to name a part of any of their homes after an employee. That man is Colin Bell, universally regarded by City supporters of a certain age to be the greatest ever midfield purveyor of pinpoint passes, crisp tackles and superb goals ever seen in the famous sky blue shirt.
Nicknamed Nijinsky by the man who bought him, the legendary City coach of the late 60s Malcolm Allison, his innate ability to find the stamina to keep playing to 100% long after his team mates (and more importantly, the opposition) had run out of steam, served Bell well. If Allison chose to compare his midfield genius to a thoroughbred race horse , the supporters had a far simpler moniker for their midfield fulcrum. To those massed on the great terrace that ran down the length of the touchline at their characterful old Maine Road home, he was and always will be The King of the Kippax.
Bell was the pivot and lubrication in Allison's all conquering City side of the late 60s and early 70s that carried all before it. Winning the league title in 1967-68, the FA Cup in 1969 and both the League Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup in 1970, they were the best ever City side in terms of trophy-winning exploits.
That fantastic team has now been surpassed, in terms of trophies collected, in terms of consistent excellence (Allison's side regularly finished midtable in the league) and in the hearts and minds of the vast majority of supporters, by the present City side, constructed to a large extent by Roberto Mancini and fine-tuned by his successor, Manuel Pellegrini.