Adios El Mago – City’s finest
Jordan Henderson winning the Footballer of the Year Award makes it all the more staggering, outrageous, pathetic – at this point you can choose your own adjectives – that David Silva has won next to no personal awards in his decade in the Premier League.
It isn’t intended as a pop at the Liverpool captain’s achievement – as subjective as it is since it’s voted on by football ‘journalists’, the majority of whom have 'had it in' for City for at least the past two years – but more, the criminal lack of appreciation, for one of the finest players ever to grace the Premier League.
If I remove the sky blue tinted glasses for a minute and look at the finest foreign imports to the top flight of English football, I’d have to concede the likes of Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo, Patrick Vieira and Eric Cantona all left an indelible mark. The question would be, did any of them do more than David Silva?
The answer can be drawn from his achievements, feats which more than merit his place among the elite of the elite.
In 10 years he’s won four Premier League titles, two FA Cups and five League Cups. He’s passed the ball 18,745 times – an average of 61 passes per game. When he first appeared for City – away at Spurs under Roberto Mancini – the general consensus, outside of the City camp, was that he was too small, too slight of physique to survive the rough and tumble of English football and its 100mph tempo.
They couldn’t have been more wrong. The wizard from the fishing village of Arguineguín in Gran Canaria thrived, with his stylish play and understated tenacity. Silva is a born winner and he’s won 70% of the 377 tackles he’s made in the PL. Hardly a shrinking violet.
Last August, Pep Guardiola described Silva as, "one of the best players I've ever seen’ – yet even though he earned 125 caps for Spain and helped them to two European Championship titles and the 2010 World Cup, he only won the Premier League's player of the month award once in a decade. That isn’t Player of the Year – it’s player of a solitary month, out of the 90 or so months for which he would have been eligible.
If that isn’t scandalous enough, City’s midfield maestro has only appeared in the PFA Team of the Year twice. It’s impossible to fathom how there could have been eight seasons when a midfield trio or quartet, depending on the chosen formation – has contained higher calibre players than Silva.
It’d be easy to feed the justifiable paranoia that Silva has been discriminated against because he plays for City. He’s only ever been prominent in red for Spain. Had he been so for United, Liverpool or Arsenal, the muppets in the media would surely have been more inclined to tick his box, when it came to handing out personal gongs.
Silva, Merlin, The Magician – refer to the man who is arguably the best player ever to wear the sky blue of Manchester City, as you will – plays his final league match at an empty Etihad Stadium tomorrow. It will be his 309th Premier League game for City, thus far scoring 60 goals and providing 93 assists. He’s been on the winning side 213 times and tasted defeat on 50 occasions – an average of five per season – none too shabby.
I never thought I’d see a player surpass King Colin Bell in a City shirt, but El Mago has done just that.
Of all of his wondrous works – and there are so many from which to choose – the outstanding single moment has to be that exquisite cushioned pass, so deftly caressed from within the City half, placed with pinpoint accuracy into the path of Edin Dzeko, as he raced through to score City’s sixth in the 6-1 massacre of United at Old Trafford.
Such is Silva’s humble approach, it probably meant more to him than the goal he’d scored moments earlier, as he virtually passed the ball past a helpless David De Gea, into the bottom left hand corner of United's net. 5-1 to City.
As one of City’s Centurions in 2017/18 – you know the only team in Premier League history to amass 100 points – David had to take time out as his baby son, Mateo’s life hung in the balance. Born prematurely, Mateo was fighting to survive in December 2017 and into the New Year. It was a time for true perspective as David played for City, between flying to and from Spain, to be with his partner Yessica and Mateo, in a Valencia hospital.
Pep told David to take as much time as he needed away from football. Family came first, but still David tried to play as often as he could during the most desperate and worrying of times. The fear of losing a child – and a newborn baby at that – is every parent’s worst nightmare.
As wonderful as it was to see City holding the Premier League trophy aloft as 2018 Champions, the most heart-warming sight was that of father and son – David holding a happy and healthy Mateo in his arms – amid the celebrations. David reflected that, at the height of his son’s medical struggles, playing for City came as a temporary release from the anguish and anxiety he was experiencing at the time.
Never one to seek the limelight or personal glory, his philosophy is engagingly self effacing: “I would like to be remembered as a good guy, who enjoys football," he said. "I hope the people enjoyed my football as well. It's simple."
Tomorrow will see City chasing a few milestones against Norwich City. They need three more goals to hit the 100 mark, Kevin De Bruyne needs two assists to set a new Premier League record of 21, whereas Ederson either wins the Golden Glove outright, or shares it with Burnley’s Nick Pope, if he keeps a 16th clean sheet of the season.
The trio of achievements will be welcome, but events will inevitably be overshadowed by Merlin’s final disappearing act from the Premier League. He goes of his own accord with City insisting a contract extension is still there to be signed, if he so chooses.
It’s unlikely, but hopefully not as unlikely as Silva still having four more games left in his City career before the final adios. If he can help City negate the threat of Real Madrid on August 7th, then play his part in three wins in Portugal next month, he would complete his medals haul by becoming a Champions League winner.
Accomplishments on the field of play count for so much more than those subjective accolades based on opinion and no little bias.
David Silva has proven himself beyond all measure to be remembered and revered as one of the best of the very best of all time. He’s right not to be bothered by those not fit to lace his boots.
By David Walker
Dedicated to a True Blue going through a difficult and painful few days. Get well soon Guvnor.