David Silva signed for Manchester City in the summer of 2010, leaving the comforts of his home country of Spain to join the revolution at the Etihad Stadium. On Saturday, he made his 300th appearance for the club. His length of service is only made more impressive by the consistency in performance he’s delivered over that time.
The fee of £24m that the Blues paid to take him from Valencia was still pretty high in the market at the time; in the modern climate a player of Silva’s ability at 24 years of age, as he was at the time, would be worth at least twice at much.
Silva had made an impressive reputation for himself in his early career and Real Madrid are known to have shown an interest in taking him to the Bernabéu. Instead, it was the then City CEO Garry Cook that was the most persuasive of the potential suitors, employing some sneaky tactics to secure the Spaniard’s signature. Speaking to David Mooney for The Bluemoon Podcast back in 2014, Cook confessed he’d been a bit underhand in bringing two stars to the club.
Whilst negotiating with Silva, Cook lied to him and told him they already had Yaya Touré signed, with one condition – Silva also had to join. Cleverly, he used the same tactic on Yaya, telling him Silva would join as long Yaya put his signature on the dotted line. It was a risky tactic, but it worked and both moved to Manchester. How different everything could have been without Cook’s sly negotiation.
When Silva made his debut against Tottenham on the opening day of the 2010/11 season, adorned in the Number 21 shirt that is now so strongly associated with him, nobody could reasonably have predicted just how good he would go on to be. His talent might have been well known, but he has been more than just good a player, more than just a great player even; he has become an icon.
Until Manchester City did the football equivalent of winning the lottery in 2008, by way of the takeover that transformed the club, it was widely accepted that their greatest ever player was Colin Bell. “We’ll drink, a drink, a drink to Colin The King, The King, The King,” the City faithful still sing with some regularity. Those fortunate enough – and old enough – to have seen him in the flesh still idolise him. Those of us that are too young to have borne witness to his prodigious talent have the stories of our parents and videotapes to rely on. Nobody would really argue with Bell’s status as City’s best ever at that time.
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Now though, Silva has a serious claim to the crown. It’s been said by a few City supporters that Silva’s quality is almost counter-intuitive. By rights, he shouldn’t be very good at all. He’s small in stature, extremely one-footed and he’s a relatively poor finisher. He doesn’t have the obvious attributes to prosper, at least not in England.
He’s made a mockery of all that. He has established himself as the best creative player in the league. Those most comparable to him are not even close in terms of quality or consistency. He is regularly City’s best performer.
He is quite something to watch. Rarely do footballers play with such elegance and grace at all times, but Silva practically glides across the pitch. He lives between the lines, in the pockets of space that nobody else see’s. Once he’s in them, he’s deadly. His vision and his passing are outstanding and, after all these years, nobody has really worked out how to shackle him.
Remarkably, aged 31, the man nicknamed Merlin by teammates and supporters just seems to be getting better. Pep Guardiola has said that Silva is so good, the chance to work with him was a determining factor in convincing him to become City’s manager. He’s remained as effusive since working up close with his compatriot. At his press conference ahead of the weekend fixtures, Guardiola told the assembled journalists that Silva “…is a fantastic and amazing player. He’s outstanding. You can never know how good he is.” I’ll be honest, Pep, City fans have been banging that drum for a while now.
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What David Silva does is art. Every game, the pitch is a blank canvass for him to paint delicate brush strokes on, each one purposeful and precise. The elaborate flourishes are relatively rare, but when they come they are perfectly judged. Game-after-game, he leaves the pitch having created yet another masterpiece.
It is hard to really find the words to do justice to just how good David Silva is. Perhaps the best tribute I can offer as a City supporter is that is just a privilege to watch him in the Sky Blue. That he has given this club the best years of his career is an honour and it’s hard to comprehend just how lucky we are that he has graced our shirt 300 times and counting. There is no doubt in my mind, David Silva is the greatest ever footballer to play for Manchester City.