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Silva: Superstar on the pitch perfect tenant of it

Since joining City in July 2010, Silva has won four Premier League titles, two FA Cups and five League Cups.

In Summary

• People who have watched him regularly, or played with him, will understand why. He’s always been the player who makes something happen for you out of nothing — the guy who makes the pass before the assist, the one who opens everything up.

• I don’t know who started calling David “Merlin”, only that Joleon Lescott always said it a lot and still does now. But there’s a reason that nickname stuck — he’s just a magician, isn’t he?

Manchester City's David Silva duing a past match
Manchester City's David Silva duing a past match
Image: /REUTERS

David Silva rented my house off me for a while. As you’d expect, he took good care of it - the same way he always looks after the ball, I guess.

He’s a good friend of mine and it’s been a pleasure to watch him at Manchester City for the past few seasons, just like it was a joy to play alongside him in his early years at the club. David’s a special player, so enjoy watching him while you can. I know he’s loved by City fans and appreciated far beyond Etihad Stadium, but I’m still not sure he quite gets all the wider accolades he deserves for what he’s brought to English football since he arrived in 2010.

Since joining City in July 2010, Silva has won four Premier League titles, two FA Cups and five League Cups. He is looking to add another FA Cup and a first Champions League to that trophy tally before he leaves the club at the end of the season

 

Yes, there are other players who have had bigger moments or scored more important goals than David has during his decade in Manchester, but it is silly to try to define him in that way because doing the spectacular has never been his job.

If you want someone to shout a lot and smash the ball into the net every so often from 40 yards, then fine, look elsewhere for a midfielder. If you want someone to run the game for you, get the team playing and set the tempo every single week, then David’s your man.

People who have watched him regularly, or played with him, will understand why. He’s always been the player who makes something happen for you out of nothing — the guy who makes the pass before the assist, the one who opens everything up.

Playing the killer forward pass is the hardest thing to do in football, no matter who you play for, and he wants to do it every time he gets on the ball. Wherever he is on the pitch, he’s never afraid to try.

When I was his team-mate, in games or in training, his levels never seemed to dip. Even when they did, he was still better than everyone else. In terms of consistently performing at the very top game after game, year after year, I would say he’s the greatest player in City’s history.

He’s won the Premier League under three different managers, Roberto Mancini, Manuel Pellegrini and Pep Guardiola, and they all built their team around him. That’s how good he is and, at 34, he is still as influential as ever.

When I think of how City go on the attack, tearing teams apart with fast feet and trademark slick passing, I think of David. Life without him is going to be very strange when he leaves at the end of the season.

 

When Silva signed for City from Valencia for £24m on July 14, 2010, he had just been part of the Spain squad that won that summer’s World Cup. He earned a total of 125 caps, scoring 35 goals, and also won the European Championship in 2008 and 2012.

I don’t know who started calling David “Merlin”, only that Joleon Lescott always said it a lot and still does now. But there’s a reason that nickname stuck — he’s just a magician, isn’t he?

I can still remember David’s first training session at City’s old Carrington training ground in the summer of 2010, because it was that good. I knew a bit about him because I had seen him play for Spain, but he still surprised everyone. His technique? Wow. Just wow.

I’d got used to seeing good players arrive for big money at City by then, but no-one stood out straight away like he did. Everyone else stood there watching him too and thinking the same as me; ‘what have we signed here?’.

We already had Robinho in the team who liked a trick or two, but David could beat you and he could play the pass as well. Yes, he was small but that was never going to stop him. He was just a different class to anything we’d seen before, and I knew straight away he would be one of the best ever.

Silva has scored 79 goals and made 119 assists in his 428 appearances for City in all competitions. In the Premier League alone, he has scored 58 goals and made 90 assists in 304 games. No player has made more league assists or created more chances (783) than him in the last decade. If I had to pick any fault with him at first, it was that he hated running. Yaya Toure, who’d signed a couple of weeks before him, was the same. But those two were still always our best players, so it didn’t matter. We had Gareth Barry and Nigel de Jong in midfield to do all their donkey work for them.

You could never accuse David of being lazy, though, and in any case he has not stopped adding different aspects to his game. He works so hard now — you don’t play for Pep otherwise — and he is also so versatile in terms of his position, which is another thing that people might not have noticed about him.

David is probably best known for being a silky number 10, sitting directly behind the strikers, but he also played on the left and right of midfield without it seeming to bother him in the slightest, and it is the same now he is in a deeper role. Anyone can play anywhere, but the difference with David is that he always affects the game. Some of my best games at right-back for City were with him in front of me, threading balls through for me to run on to all day long, easy as you like. He would just drift inside and play that pass across perfectly for me.

People might forget he was involved in so many of our important goals, like the winner in the 2011 FA Cup final that started everything for City, or the first two goals we scored against QPR on that famous final day of the 2011-12 season.

It’s always other players who get the headlines, but he has had plenty of moments that live long in my memory, like his performance in our 6-1 win at Old Trafford in October 2011. I still think that’s his best game for the club.

He scored our fifth goal that day but that is overlooked because of how good his volleyed pass was to Edin Dzeko to round off the scoring a few moments later. I stood a few yards away from him when he played it, and it was probably the greatest pass I have ever seen. When I watch it back now, it is still as outrageously good. Just the idea of trying it was ridiculous, but he puts the perfect weight and spin on it and he makes it all look so easy too.

Luckily I didn’t have to play against him too often to be on the receiving end of that kind of genius. When we were together at City, I actually used to smash him up and down in training and he always used to get mad at me and ask why the hell I was doing that. I told him that his position in the team was safe but I needed to do well in training otherwise I wouldn’t be playing at the weekend — I’d say ‘if I need to smash you mate, I am smashing you’.

In the end we had an agreement that he wouldn’t come near me and there wouldn’t be any problems. But, joking aside, he was never afraid of mixing it either. He learnt very early on that he needed that side to his game to flourish in the Premier League — and not just because of the way I treated him. He can handle it when he gets kicked and he definitely enjoys giving people a whack back as well when he gets a chance too.

For such a brilliant player, David has always been such a humble guy. He lives in the centre of Manchester now because he loves the city so much and he just walks around like it is nothing — he doesn’t seem to understand or care how a big a star he is. He definitely doesn’t act like one.

I went out for dinner with him after City lost the derby in December. Nigel de Jong was over doing some TV work, so along with Joe Hart and Joleon, we met up with David afterwards. He hadn’t changed one bit — he is still really chilled about everything.

He is always there signing things for fans and talking to them, but his connection with City is deeper than that. Some foreign players come in and it’s obvious they have just come to play football and get their money for a few years, without making much effort to find out about the culture of the city or the history of the club. David was never like that.

I have got to know him very well down the years and I know how much it affected him when his son, Mateo, was born extremely prematurely in 2017. Thankfully all is well with Mateo now but, even when he was in hospital, when David played and had all of that on his mind he was still one of the best players on the pitch.

He’d always been someone who spends a lot of time with his family anyway — he brought quite a few of them over from the Canary Islands to live in my house! — but, if you asked him, he’d come with us on team nights out too. When we played together, everyone at City thought the world of him, and I know it is the same now, through the work I do around the club. It’s a shame that when he plays his final game at Etihad Stadium this summer, it will be behind closed doors and he will not get the send-off he deserves.

But I’m sure he’ll be back in Manchester for his testimonial as soon as it is safe for fans to attend matches and it will actually be more fitting for him to say goodbye on a day dedicated solely to him. He deserves it, and he will definitely fill the stadium because that’s how much he is loved.