David Silva has become one of Manchester City’s greatest players, but might never have joined the club had Pep Guardiola taken Unai Emery’s advice seven years ago.
Silva marked his 300th match in City colours with a display of incisive passing and great vision as they strengthened their hold on a Champions League qualification place with a comfortable win over Hull.
It prompted Guardiola to cast his mind back to a conversation with Emery, then in charge of Valencia, before Silva’s £24m move to England in 2010.
Guardiola said: “I remember when I was at Barcelona. The first or second year I was there, Unai Emery, who is now the PSG trainer, was at Valencia with Silva.
“After we played them, he told me: ‘David Silva is the player for you, for Barcelona. Believe me, that is a player for Barcelona by far.’ And he was so right. He’s a special player. But he was so expensive.”
City felt the price was worth it, and have been repaid considerably since. Guardiola and Yaya Toure put him in the same bracket as Barcelona greats Xavi and Andres Iniesta, while one of City’s own heroes of the past, Mike Summerbee, has gone as far as to suggest that Silva may be the best player to pull on the club’s shirt.
Perhaps the one question over Silva’s claim to true greatness is a lack of goals, scoring just 49 times in seven seasons at City. He had two good chances against Hull to mark his 300th game for his club with goal number 50, but hit one straight at the keeper and volleyed the second over.
Guardiola said: “Always I said he had to score goals because if Silva score goals, you cannot imagine what he would have been. He has absolutely everything. He has the mentality, he is a competitor.”
Silva’s best moments against Hull centred on his passing. He played Jesus Navas down the right to cross for the opener, turned into his own net by Ahmed Elmohamady.
Then he was part of a beautifully worked passing move for the second, which ended with Sterling darting to the byline and cutting back for Sergio Aguero to squeeze in City’s 100th goal of the season.
Midfielder Toure said: “Sometimes you need someone like David when you play teams who try to close the gaps. We need a clever player to move between the lines and move the ball quickly.
“I’ve played alongside players like Xavi and Iniesta at Barcelona. He’s such a similar type of player. Sometimes when we need a player like him at home, just to be in this space and use the ball well.
“He’s been brilliant for this club and I’m delighted for him to reach 300 games played.”
The continuing absence of Gabriel Jesus, who Guardiola indicated afterwards is likely to be fit at the start of next month, has not damaged City’s goalscoring threat.
It was Toure who started the move for their third as they ended a run of four league matches without a win, setting Sterling away to tee up Fabian Delph, who drove in from 20 yards for his first goal since August.
It strengthened City’s grip on fourth place and would have completed a perfect afternoon for Guardiola, had Claudio Bravo’s troubles not surfaced again.
Bravo, recalled for his first Premier League appearance since January 21, allowed Andrea Ranocchia’s late shot to slide beneath his left hand from what was Hull’s only shot on target. The Chile keeper has now failed to save any of the last seven shots he has faced in the league.
It was only Hull’s eighth away league goal of the season, and they have collected just one point from their last 14 games on the road. Home form will be key to their survival.
Goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic said: “It’s going to be like this until the end of the season now.
“We could win all three home games and get to 39 points. Would that be enough? Maybe but we need away points.”