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David Silva: The making of a City legend

When David Silva first arrived in Manchester to begin his City career, he brought his World Cup winner’s medal with him for a cover photoshoot for the official Club magazine ‘ManC’.

As editor back then, I stayed throughout the shoot and then interviewed David afterwards. He was quiet - almost shy - but I liked him as a person immediately.

I ran the rather obvious title ‘Golden Silva’ on the cover and, if truth be told, I’ve used it a few times since.

I doubt anybody knew quite what the next eight seasons would bring, or that Silva would be pulling the strings along the way with a grace and artistry most of us had never witnessed before, as City lifted trophy after trophy.

While his participation in the 2010 World Cup was minimal, here was a world champion, still only aged 24 and willing to take a chance in the Premier League – recognised as the most competitive, physical and fastest league on the planet.

Silva was once told by Real Madrid he was too small to make it, but he believed in his own ability and continued as a youngster with third tier side San Fernando where he would stay for five years. He started life as a goalkeeper, but it wasn’t long before his technical ability and vision was identified, and he moved on to the wing, sometimes imagining he was his boyhood hero Michael Laudrup.

By the age of 14, he had outgrown the small Andalusian club and after being offered a trial by Valencia where his father Fernando was in charge of stadium security, he joined Los Che and began to blossom.

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At the FIFA Under-17s World Championship in 2003, the teenage Silva was on the periphery of the team that travelled to Finland and he sat out the first game, but after climbing off the bench at half-time in the quarter-finals against South Korea, he scored a second-half hat-trick that saw Spain come back from 2-0 down to win 3-2. It was the start of an international love affair with La Roja for the teenager from Gran Canaria that is still going strong today.

REIGN IN SPAIN: King David

He returned home with the Bronze Ball, having finished runners-up to Brazil in the final, but people were finally starting to sit up and take notice of the gifted Valencia play-maker.

Back at his club, he played 14 games for Valencia B (while their A team went on to secure a second La Liga title in three years plus the UEFA Cup) before spending the 2004/05 season on loan with Eibar, playing 35 times for the Segunda Division side and helping them to a fourth-place finish – the highest in their history.

Silva needed a grander platform to display his talents the season after and he was again loaned out by Valencia for the 2005/06 campaign, this time to newly-promoted La Liga side Celta Vigo, playing 34 games as Celta achieved an impressive sixth place La Liga finish – that same season, with no David Silva, Eibar were relegated from Segunda Division.

Silva had by now served his apprenticeship and was welcomed straight into the Valencia first team.

VALENCIA: Rising star

He had also played 54 times for Spain at Under 16, 17, 19, 20 and 21 levels and aged just 20, he embarked on his senior career with La Roja, winning his first cap in 2006 against Romania and two years later he was playing in the final of Euro 2008 against Germany as Spain ended their long wait for international glory.

Silva first came to City’s attention when he scored against City in the 2007 Thomas Cook Trophy as Valencia won 1-0 at the then-named City of Manchester Stadium. A year later City were rumoured to have enquired about Silva and his Valencia team-mate David Villa on transfer deadline day following Sheikh Mansour’s takeover, but a huge transfer fee was allegedly demanded, and the deal never happened. At least, not for a couple more years.

The 22-year-old Silva was now being courted by some of La Liga’s top clubs and he was an integral part of the Valencia team, playing 97 games and scoring 14 goals in his first two seasons with Los Che during which a Copa del Rey triumph was also secured.

SMILE FOR THE CAMERA: David was one of La Liga's brightest talents

A knee injury hampered the first half of the 2008/09 season, but his final campaign at The Mestalla would see him play 39 times and score 10 goals as he helped Valencia secure a third-place finish in La Liga.

City, now under the stewardship of Roberto Mancini, made Silva’s capture a priority as the sky blue rebuilding project began to gather pace. Rather than risk Silva being one of the stars of the 2010 World Cup and being usurped by Barcelona or Real Madrid, the Blues began negotiating with Valencia to secure Silva’s services after the 2009/10 campaign ended and on 30 June 2010, it was announced an agreement was in place to make the Spaniard a City player after the World Cup for a fee of £24m.

He arrived as a World Cup winner as Spain confirmed their place as the world’s best football nation and Silva, who took on the No.21 shirt he wore for Valencia and Spain, made his debut away to Spurs in a 0-0 draw.

GOAL: David scores away to QPR

It was no coincidence that City ended a 36-year wait for silverware during his first year with the Blues with an FA Cup triumph against Stoke completing a superb first campaign that also saw the midfield maestro collect three consecutive Etihad Player of the Month awards between October and December.

The following season, Carlos Tevez claimed Silva was “the best signing City had made” and he continued to make and score goals as the Blues ended a 44-year wait for a top-flight title on the final day of the 2011/12 season.

CHAMPS: David and Joe

Silva, now nicknamed both ‘Merlin’ and ‘El Mago’ (The Magician) by City fans, completed an amazing 12 months by winning Euro 2012 with Spain and was also voted into the PFA Team of the Year and collected the Etihad MCFC Players’ Player of the Year award.

More titles followed in 2013/14 as City won the Premier League and Capital One Cup, and in 2016 another Capital One Cup winners’ medal was added to his collection and while his club and country honours are legion, he is yet to collect the PFA Player of the Year prize – one honour City fans feel he could and should easily have won on at least two occasions… had he been even nominated.

Last season, he passed notable landmarks with the Blues as he scored his 50th goal and played his 300th game and with the news he has signed an extension to his current deal, he is likely to go on and set a host of new records in the seasons to come.

For Spain, he has now won 118 caps and scored 35 goals, making him one of La Roja’s greatest players – quite an accolade - and he celebrated his 31st year by winning the 2016/17 Manchester City Player of the Year.

City's David Silva is desperate to add the Champions League to his trophy haul

It just keeps getting better.

When Colin Bell, regraded by so many as City’s greatest player says ‘actually, David Silva is the greatest player to have represented the Club’, you can’t help but agree with him. To say he is adored by City fans is an understatement.

It’s worth remembering that behind the silk is a steely resolve and a born winner. For a boy to be rejected on the grounds of physicality, he had the mental strength to not only prove all his doubters wrong, but prove his worth in the hardest league in the world and be the best.

REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL: David Silva can't contain his joy after scoring

A wonderful footballer, he does all his talking on the pitch while away from the game, he is a humble and quiet man who shuns the limelight and lifestyle often associated with players at the top of their game.

As a journalist, it’s been a genuine privilege to work with David these past seven years or so - and as a supporter, it’s been a pleasure to watch him play.

The great news is, we all get to see a genius at work for at least a few more years - hopefully more - as he continues to weave his magic and write new chapters into a career that is almost unsurpassed.

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