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Precious Silva: Courageous and cool midfield wizard will be a huge loss for Manchester City


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David Silva has won four league titles, two FA Cups and five League Cups since joining Manchester City in 2010. Photo: Justin Tallis/NMC Pool/PA Wire

David Silva has won four league titles, two FA Cups and five League Cups since joining Manchester City in 2010. Photo: Justin Tallis/NMC Pool/PA Wire

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David Silva has won four league titles, two FA Cups and five League Cups since joining Manchester City in 2010. Photo: Justin Tallis/NMC Pool/PA Wire

November 28, 2017. It was not a day of any particular note for Manchester City but, in searching for the words to best encapsulate what David Silva has represented as he prepares for his final Premier League game with the club tomorrow, the mind kept drifting back to that afternoon when Pep Guardiola was chewing over Alex Ferguson's interpretation of "courage in football".

"Some believe the greatest courage in football is the courage to win the ball," the former Manchester United manager once remarked.

"The other kind of courage - and it's a moral courage - is the courage to keep the ball.

'I'll take the kick. I'll take the injury. But I will keep the ball. I'll beat the bully'."

Guardiola's teams are defined by their willingness to "keep the ball", as Ferguson called it, and in this City side no one has come to embody that better than Silva, who, invariably, is the coolest head on the pitch, the antidote to panic, an oasis of calm amid the often frenetic nature of the Premier League.

To Guardiola, Silva's courage on the field is courage in its purest, most revealing form, and the real shame is City fans will be denied the opportunity to bid a fond farewell to one of the Premier League's greatest imports when Norwich City visit the Etihad Stadium.

Tackles

"When you talk about courage, there are the guys who jump, who make tackles, but when there are troubles they don't want the ball," the City manager said.

"I like a lot of players who, when you are in a bad situation, step forward. David looks skinny and like he doesn't run too much but he's never injured and every three days, he's fit, he's there. He's the guy who will play in the important stages and especially in the bad moments.

"I put a lot of attention on how players react in bad moments, during the game and in bad situations, and David is one of the best at it."

Silva has been beating the bully for a decade in City colours and has the marks to prove it.

He recalled this week how his ankles endured such abuse that there came a time when even pain-killing injections were ineffective.

"There were moments when my ankle was really bad," he said. "I had to have an injection before I played and then eventually couldn't carry on, and it was so frustrating. But, in the end, everything has been worth it."

It was not even that he was the victim of repeat, deliberate, cynical fouls.

More often, he was simply too elusive and those clips at the heels would come from opponents unable to read a midfielder who seems to play almost perpetually on the half-turn.

This observer has been struck down the years by the number of Premier League players who have described trying to dispossess Silva as one of their most demoralising and exhausting experiences, so rarely does he lose the ball.

Guardiola doubts he has ever seen a player who is better at operating in the tightest spaces.

Under Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, Silva would be stationed wide and drift infield, but it was Guardiola's decision to partner the diminutive Spaniard in the middle with Kevin De Bruyne that would prove the catalyst to City's sharp ascent.

Size

Given Silva's size, some thought Guardiola mad, but not for long.

Silva's performances during City's first title success, when they amassed an unprecedented 100 points, were probably the high point of his career, and all the more extraordinary given what was going on in his personal life.

His son, Mateo, was born prematurely at just 25 weeks in December 2017 but, despite the frequent 1,000-mile trips to a hospital in Valencia, where his baby boy spent five months in an incubator, sleepless nights, disrupted eating patterns and difficulties training, Silva actually managed to elevate his game to new heights.

He would later reflect that football offered a valuable escape route.

"It was the thing that helped me the most," he said.

"For that time I was out on the field, those 90 minutes, that was the only time I could forget stuff."

Now 34, Silva says he could not, "even in my wildest dreams", have imagined the success he would go on to have.

His 125 caps for Spain yielded two European Championships and the World Cup. And, over 433 appearances for City, he has won four league titles, two FA Cups, five League Cups, and next month he will hope to add the Champions League, the one major trophy that still eludes him, to his collection.

He will be sorely missed. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk