Spain's false striker shows his true value at City
David Silva has found a home for his gifts, writes Amy Lawrence
When David Silva returned home for duty with the national team last October, he sat down for an interview with the Spanish media to reflect on what his admirers in England regarded as an oddity.
Yes, everybody the world over acknowledges that Spain is overflowing with gifted footballers and there is only room for 11 in any starting selection, but was it not possible for space to be found for such a beguiling bundle?
Silva, who had been one of Vicente del Bosque's picks for the opening game of the 2010 World Cup triumph, which resulted in a shock defeat to Switzerland, saw barely any action in the tournament after that.
Contemplating his place in the Spanish footballing constellation, Silva chose his words carefully. He felt resigned, he admitted, to a secondary role in the national team. "I was the only victim of the loss against Switzerland," he explained. "The manager doesn't count on me. I think the fact I didn't sign for Real Madrid or Barcelona has counted against me."
Out of sight and out of mind? Too much of a luxury? Whatever the player thought of his chances under Del Bosque, everything was about to turn 180 degrees. Silva started both of Spain's October fixtures in European Championship qualification. He excelled in wins against the Czech Republic and Scotland.
Most intriguingly, he played in what Spaniards call the 'false striker' position, the role currently defined by Lionel Messi at Barcelona. Silva showed his compatriots the combination of relentless playmaking, dribbling, a precision final pass and an eye for goal that has become such an expressive part of Manchester City's make-up.
It might just be that events have conspired to give Silva a role in the Spanish team that few would have envisaged for a slender craftsman who specialises in providing. The world champions have something of a striker crisis at the moment, what with David Villa's injury, Fernando Torres's form, and Fernando Llorente's fitness causing worries beyond the usual suspects. Mind you, Spain being Spain, Silva even has competition for the new slot. Cesc Fabregas has also auditioned impressively as a false striker.
Silva's point about struggling to be noticed because he signed for Manchester City and not one of Spain's superpowers when he left Valencia is an interesting one. But you could argue that his consistently high-calibre displays this season in England have actually changed perceptions of Silva for the better.
Nobody is surprised by the technique, which was always there in his Valencia years, but seeing Silva responding to the mammoth levels of expectation at Eastlands, and producing every week in the physical world of the Premier League, does no harm to the reputation of a boy from the Canary Islands, where the people are stereotyped as laid-back and easy-going.
Silva was never exactly renowned for mental toughness. Yet he has played more minutes of Premier League football this season than any of the other attacking players at Roberto Mancini's disposal. In fact from the whole squad, only the strongest of the spinal players -- Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, and Yaya Toure -- have spent more time in the fray.
Silva believes the difference in his game this season is a by-product of the team's evolution. City are by nature more adventurous. The arrival of an attacker he clicked with instantly in Sergio Aguero, and the fact that Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko are, like him, more settled, reaps obvious rewards.
Silva already has more goals for City this term than he did all last season. That fruitful October got even better for Silva when he returned, after his Spain appearances, to a City team making their most powerful statement yet in the 6-1 demolition at Old Trafford, the Spaniard named man of the match.
Looking back on that astonishing team performance, Silva contributed something that made him stand out even though every player scored high marks that day. The box of tricks he took out on to the pitch was the glitter on the icing on the cake. The Spanish have a word for it. They would call him a jugones, someone who loves to play. An entertainer.
There are not many national teams in the world who would not find room for one of those in their first XI. If 2011 looked like Silva's turning point for club and country, 2012 brings the promise of even greater possibilities.
Sunday Indo Sport