David Silva is amongst the finest footballers to have worn a Manchester City shirt. The Spanish international midfielder is a joy to watch, singlehandedly capable of carving open a defence with his skill and vision. Here we take a look back at the career of the man who is fast becoming one of City’s most memorable players.
David Josué Jiménez Silva was born on 8th January 1986 in Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, a small set of Islands off the west coast of Morocco. He grew up with his father Fernando, his mother Eva and two younger siblings, Natalia and Nando, in the small fishing village of Arguineguín. From the age of four, David was obsessive about football, playing with friends and cousins using almost anything but a football to play. His grandmother, Antonia, recalled:
He played with potatoes and oranges in front of the house when he was four or five. Sometimes I chucked him out of the passageway because, between him and his cousin, Ranzel, they were driving me mad with football, football, football. I made them a ball from rags and sent them out into the street.
David’s cousin, Ranzel, always thought he was special when they played together as children.
David was very good with a ball since he was a little kid. I’m a year older than him and when he played with us he was even better than those in my team who were all older. He played better despite not having a great physique. He just adored football.
When David was 12 a huge opportunity beckoned and he travelled into mainland Spain for a trial with Real Madrid. After spending a week with the club, the scouts decided against pursuing their interest further.
I don’t really know why but I think they thought I was too small. I spent a week there. I remember there were kids who were bigger than me but there were some who were smaller than me, too. I was disappointed but at that age all I was really interested in doing was playing football.
Nevertheless, two years later, David had a successful trial with Valencia and made the move from Gran Canaria to the mainland in 2000. Despite his joy at securing a contract at the club he would play for until 2010, David found it difficult to leave home at such a young age. Antonia said:
David’s first years there were hard. He tried to sound strong but…when he called me on the phone I sensed he was sad. A lot of days he rang me at eight in the morning and I said to him, ‘David, you’re not well’. But he didn’t say anything.
To help David settle and pursue his dream, his mother and sister moved to Valencia to live with him. Eventually, his father followed suit. Despite his difficulties David has no regrets.
I was very young. It’s a big move to go to a big city, and the Canary Islands are away from the mainland. It was a tough decision to move, but it was too good an opportunity to turn down.
When David was 15 his five year old cousin, Cynthia, died from cancer. The bereavement had an adverse effect on him and as a tribute to Cynthia, he kisses his wrist when he scores a goal and has her name stitched into his football boots.
After establishing himself in Valencia’s youth academy, David was given the opportunity to prove his worth at senior level when he was loaned to Spanish second division team SD Eibar at the beginning of the 2004/05 season. He went onto make 34 appearances and score four goals for SD Eibar before going on loan to Celta de Vigo the following season where he made 34 appearances and scored four goals.
At the beginning of the 2006/07 season, David made his senior debut for Valencia. He was seen as the replacement for the outgoing playmaker Pablo Aimar, with Silva even taking his squad number, 21, which he still uses today for City and Spain. David soon established himself as a mainstay in the starting eleven and linked up well with fellow Spaniard, David Villa. With a seemingly natural ability to find space between the midfield and defence and play a killer pass, David made 40 appearances in his debut season, scoring eight and getting seven assists. After representing Spain at various youth levels, Silva also made his senior debut for Spain in November 2006. When asked how he learned to play the game, he said:
You don’t learn to play football. It’s not like school, where someone can sit you down and teach you how to do this or do that. You have to know how to play and love playing, then you learn new things. I suppose I just picked it up like all other children do, playing with my friends. We played wherever we could.
The following season Silva got his first taste of domestic success. A star studded Valencia team, including the likes of Villa, Juan Mata and Raul Albiol, won the Copa Del Rey after defeating Getafe 3-1 in the final. The influence and ability of Silva was not lost on Spanish national team manager, Luis Aragonés, as he earned his place in the squad for Euro 2008.
With a growing reputation of serial underachievers, Spain’s hugely talented team silenced their critics by winning European Championships in 2008. David was a key member of the team and started five of the six matches contributing a goal and an assist. With a plethora of a talent emanating from Spain it was inevitable the national team’s success at Euro 2008 would trigger interest from clubs across Europe.
Certain players like Barcelona’s Xavi and Andrés Iniesta were almost unattainable but due to Valencia’s dire financial state the club were under huge pressure to sell their biggest stars. The likes of David Villa and David Silva were more realistic propositions for the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool, who were reportedly interested in the pair.
The Valencia manager, Unai Emery, however, seemed determined to hold onto his star players, particularly Silva. Famously, he once said that he would rather walk around the Valencia stadium, the Mestalla, with a collection box than sell his prized asset, going onto say you can find other players like David Villa, but nobody quite like Silva. In 2009, Emery went as far to declare his preference for Silva over Kaka, who at the time was considered one of the finest playmakers in the world:
Logically Kaka has won more and done more in the game, but David is heading that way with steady performances. If I had to choose either, I’d stay with David.
In spite Emery’s determination, Valencia eventually succumbed to the financial pressure as Villa departed for Barcelona in 2010 and Juan Mata joined Chelsea in 2011. Silva, of course, joined City in July 2010 for a fee of £24million. On his departure from Spain, he said Valencia will always be a club that it is close to his heart and lamented how difficult the decision was to leave. Although David wouldn’t arrive at City until after the 2010 World Cup, he said upon signing:
City were the club that showed the most interest for me. They stuck their neck out and showed the more serious interest, that’s why I went for it. They also showed interest during last season so I know they really wanted me. I had a lot of contact with the likes of Pepe Reina and Fernando Torres, who were already playing over here, and they both told me how great the Premier League was. I will be happy if at the end we are in the Champions League – or if we win a trophy. My first target is to get into the team, and then to fight for the league and the other competitions.
Roberto Mancini was equally delighted at securing the services of David:
I am so pleased he is coming to us, I think he can make a big, big impact. In signing David, we are showing the world that we are bringing the best players here and that we hope to compete to win the Premier League. You know, I wanted to sign this guy five years ago for Internazionale. He has kept me waiting.
Despite Spain’s success at the 2010 World Cup, Silva had a frustrating tournament. Spanish manager, Vicente del Bosque, used him sparingly and he only started one game and appeared once as a substitute. Reflecting on the tournament, Silva was typically humble in his analysis:
I started out in the team but then we lost the first game against Switzerland and it all changed after that. I didn’t get an explanation and I didn’t ask for one, just as if I take someone else’s place I wouldn’t expect an explanation.
But the thing is, we made the country so happy and it was just great to be part of that, even if I didn’t feature much. Of course I would have liked to play more. But at the same time to see everyone so happy, so overjoyed, that was a wonderful feeling. That was some kind of compensation
Due to the World Cup, David arrived at City having missed the majority of pre-season. Questions were asked about David’s diminutive physique and whether he would be able to cope with the physicality of the Premier League. Those doubts were soon erased as David became indispensable to the City team with a string of eye catching performances. Despite enjoying a successful debut campaign in England where he started 42 games and won the FA Cup, David lamented the pressure he was under after the World Cup:
You have to remember I was under a lot of pressure, having signed for a big fee. I had just come back from the World Cup and I had no time off, so it was all a bit sudden. The Premier League is different to Spain. They play harder and faster over here, so you have less time on the ball and less time to recover when you make a mistake.
At the beginning of the 2011/12 season, City, and Silva in particular, were in blistering form. In 14 league matches City won 12, drew two and scored 48 goals. He would go onto start 47 games, score eight and get 19 assists in the season when City won the Premier League. It is little surprise that pundits across the country cited Silva as the best player in the League, something which he modestly denied:
There are many great players in the Premier League. I won’t say who I think is the best. But I would say some of them are here, at this club.
It is clear to most that when Silva plays well City play well. It is no coincidence that when City’s form tailed off slightly in the winter months of 2011/12, he was carrying an injury. Nevertheless, his reputation as the one of the best was fully established. In the aftermath of the dramatic title win he said:
I’m happy for everything, for everyone here because we’ve won a big trophy like the Premier League, for my family too and I hope all the fans will enjoy the victory like I will. I’m really happy.
Silva was only afforded five days rest before departing for Euro 2012 with Spain. Fortunately for him, the personal disappointment of not being heavily involved in the 2010 World Cup was laid to rest somewhat at Euro 2012. Spain went onto win the tournament and, in the process, claim an unprecedented third straight major tournament and David was influential. This time around Vicente del Bosque showed faith in the City player and he started all six games, got three assists and scored two goals, including the opener in the final against Italy.
In the wake of David’s fine performances at Euro 2012, David signed a five year contract extension at City in September 2012, much to the delight of the City fans. Upon signing the deal, he said:
I’m delighted to be extending my contract and being here really does feel just like home for me. We won the Premier League title and two other trophies too, and the team is growing and we are now aiming at the Champions League and so that also is another reason to want to stay here and try and win it. As I said, I feel very comfortable here and I want to try and win trophies like those.
Despite his outstanding success on the pitch, both domestically and internationally, David remains grounded is reluctant to live the high life which is easily accessible to him. Amidst the fanfare his performances create, David is a modest man with family values at this core. His grandmother, Antonia, said:
He has a lovely girlfriend from Arguineguin who he’s known since the age of four and is studying in Madrid. He’s got money to buy himself a house and be independent but he loves his family, who cook the food he likes so much.
As for David, he is living his dream.
It’s a huge privilege to make a living from my passion. I love to play beautiful football and I’ve been fortunate to play at clubs, and with a national team, that enjoys to play attacking football. As long as that continues, I’m very happy with where things are right now.
Personally, I do not think I have seen a better player at City than David Silva. He is one of the best players in the world who is integral to City’s recent success and is a key player for the most lauded international team in history. Long may his association with our club continue.