Pep Guardiola hailed David Silva after Manchester City’s midfield magician marked his 300th appearance for the club by orchestrating a much-needed defeat of relegation-threatened Hull.
City snapped a run of four matches without a win with Silva doing what he has done on a consistently brilliant basis across seven years at the Etihad.
Wearing the captain’s armband, the Spanish maestro, once again ran the game, played a pivotal role in all three goals and, job done, left to a standing ovation 18 minutes from time.
There can be little higher praise in the Guardiola lexicon than to compare a player to those Barcelona midfield titans Andres Iniesta and Xavi but the City manager – and former Camp Nou coach - was reaching for those very superlatives.
“When I say I’m a lucky guy it’s because I was with Xavi, Iniesta and now Silva. All three are outstanding players,” said Guardiola, who then revealed he had been urged to sign Silva, then at Valencia, for Barcelona.
“The first or second year I was at Barcelona, Unai Emery, who is now the PSG trainer, was there with Valencia,” he recalled.
“After the game he told me: ‘David Silva is the player for you, for Barcelona. Believe me, that is the player for Barcelona by far. And he was so right. He’s special player but he was so expensive, so expensive.”
Not too expensive, however, for City, who paid Valencia £26 million in June 2010 to bring Silva to the Etihad, where he helped win the FA Cup in his first season. The virtuoso displays have just kept on coming with the latest enough to steady City’s minimum expectations of a top-four finish.
He unlocked Hull with an inch-perfect, defence-splitting pass that enabled Jesus Navas to whip in a cross that the unfortunate Ahmed Elmohamady diverted into his own net for City’s opener.
He was, naturally, also involved in City’s second, a Guardiola-hallmarked 20-pass confection starting with goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and ending as Sergio Aguero claimed his 10th goal in his last 10 matches.
To conclude the masterclass, Silva also launched the third, manoeuvring the ball on the edge of his own penalty area to launch another rapier attack that was crowned with Fabian Delph’s rasping finish.
Yet for all his sustained effervescence, Silva’s seven seasons in England have not been garlanded with individual awards. No Premier League footballer or player of the season crowns and, almost ludicrously, just one player-of-the month nomination, back in September 2011.
That rankles around the Etihad and Guardiola said: “He has something more special than awards. The awards are to be put in the wardrobe. The opinion we will have in the future about what he has done in his career will not be about how many individual prizes he has won, it will be about the opinion of his team-mates and his managers.”
Hull’s consolation goal, through Andrea Ranocchia, raised fresh doubts over Bravo. The City goalkeeper’s distribution in undeniably impressive but the visitors’ only attempt on target was a tame effort that should have been dealt with comfortably.
It all left Hull still without a league win on the road since last August at Swansea, putting huge pressure on their home form as they strive to stay above the relegation zone.
Goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic said: “We had three games in seven days and got six points. Nobody was expecting us to take anything from this game. We could win all three home games and get to 39 points but we need away points.”