Words like “legend” and “all-time-great” are bandied around an awful lot in today’s knee-jerk social media generation. Often, due to an endless indulgence on banal highlight reels, all sense of perspective can be lost.
An average player’s ability can be over-inflated by a handy half-volley at Selhurst Park or a series of nifty step overs against Watford during a forgettable early Sunday afternoon kick-off. Overnight this player is suddenly the “GOAT” in an “Unpopular Opinion” thread doing the rounds on the wild west frontier town that is Twitter in 2020.
Recency has also become king in large swathes of modern era football debate. A player’s importance and influence can be overshadowed by the emergence of a decent youngster coming through the ranks who is exposed to all manner of excited coverage and statistical analysis, despite only having played a handful of unimportant fixtures for the senior team.
Set against this increasing bewildering backdrop is the long, sad goodbye that the Premier League is about to bid to one of its greatest ever imports.
David Silva is about to bring the curtain down on a decade long career in England’s top flight in the midst of empty grounds and chronic uncertainty about the future of the game.
The Spaniard supersedes so many of those trivial and often disrespectful debates, after setting sky high standards in a career of great success and relentless consistency.
He is up there with the greatest and most consistent Premier League playmakers of the last three decades and one of the most important foreign players to have graced the English game.
His departure will leave a significant void in Manchester City’s squad. Yes, they will have money for a new recruit, but you do not merely go out and replace a player of Silva’s pedigree; that is simply impossible even with eye-watering wealth. Furthermore, the void is unlikely to be adequately filled by highly-rated local lad Phil Foden, but that this a debate for another day.
Some may have questioned whether Silva had the physicality to properly transfer his game over from La Liga to the high octane madhouse that is the Premier League back in 2010. However, any lingering fears should have been suitably discarded as the diminutive Spaniard showed why he was such an essential signing for a team on an upward trajectory.
Rarely did you see him muck up a pass or carelessly yield possession and he quickly became one of the most easy-on-the-eye footballers English football as he settled in City’s midfield.
Blessed with a wonderful left foot; Silva’s breathtaking natural ability allowed him to wriggle out of the tightest of spaces before dribbling past opponents and creating all kinds of chaos on the pitch, not to mention oceans of space for other forward players.
Born with that rare instinctive ability to play with intelligence between the lines; Silva’s near telepathic penchant for spotting a run and suddenly slicing open two rows of hapless defenders with a perfectly weighted through ball, became one of City’s most potent weapons.
Occupying countless nooks and crannies; Silva was able to dangerously flit between lines and pick passes with artistic flare. At his best, he was near-impossible to mark and wonderfully unpredictable.
His ability stands him out as one of the most important players of City’s revolution under Pep Guardiola. The fact the former Barcelona coach inherited such a polished gem in his squad when he rocked up to east Manchester back in 2016 massively facilitated the efficient execution of his master plan for the club.
Whether they would have achieved the same soaring heights without the clever little Spaniard will never be known, but he was, even well into his thirties, one of the most important players in many a Guardiola starting XI. Indeed the now iconic football manager acknowledged the world class abilities of his majestic midfielder, saying in 2019:
“He is one of the most incredible players in the world at playing in the pockets. He is maybe the strongest in the world in those spaces…he is a master of it. Few players can do it.”
For supporters who insist on leaning solely on stats to casually dismiss top players, Silva’s goal return was not arguably sufficient for a player of his composure with the ball at his feet.
However, such an argument loses all credence when you consider that the Spaniard boasts the joint second highest assists ratio in Premier League history. This selfless profligacy as a provider has also helped the likes of Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero become two of the most feared attacking names in the division.
Each of his three managers in England entrusted the Spaniard to pull the strings in the clubs biggest games and rarely did he let anyone down. His menace and tenacity both on and off the ball, meant even deep-lying teams, encamped in their own half could not withstand a barrage of attacking play, often with former Valencia man at it’s heart.
The likes of Kevin De Bruyne may grab more headlines more often, but the legacy Silva leaves behind at the Etihad this summer is non-negotiable.
For club and country he set himself aside as one of the true greats. The fact, due to a global pandemic, he will be denied an appropriate farewell in front of his adoring home supporters is an awful shame for a player who has been instrumental in each of City’s four Premier League title wins.
Perhaps then, amid all of the petty bickering over players who have achieved barely a fraction of what Silva has done in a non-native league, there can be a ceasefire as even fans of rival clubs pause their vitriolic debate to admire one of the Premier League’s true greats.
Silva helped to forge a lofty new standard for how football is played and titles are won in this country. And that is certainly not an unpopular opinion to re-post on your timeline to impress you pals on social media.