David Silva is showing Man City what they’re missing at Real Sociedad: magic

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With Manchester City struggling to get going this season, it’s understandable that their fans might wistfully gaze over at Real Sociedad to see how David Silva is getting on without them. 

A statue for who many consider City’s greatest ever player is set to be unveiled outside the Etihad in 2021, but if any of the club’s supporters really want to pay homage to El Mago then they might consider a pilgrimage out to San Sebastian – if life ever gets back to normal – to see one of their heroes in the flesh.

Moving forward might be necessary, but it can be painful. Sergio Aguero is now the only player left from the side that trounced United 6-1 back in 2011.

There was a sense that the club didn’t adequately fill the gap left by Vincent Kompany last season, and there’s a similar sensation again, looking almost ordinary without Silva’s stardust.

Theoretically, between Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva, they should have more than enough creativity and guile in midfield to account for Silva’s departure.

But the Spaniard left an indelible mark. Filling the void left by a magician is easier said than done.

City’s 2020-21 campaign is almost like a highfalutin piece of performance art; a tribute to Silva himself by offering an exhaustive rebuttal to the doubters that questioned his status as a Premier League great by asking what exactly it was that he did.

We’re finding out in his absence, with City having scored their fewest goals at this stage of the season in the Sheikh Mansour era.

If the untold riches invested in City made them a Patek Philippe to the humble, functional Casio of a Burnley or Sheffield United, Silva was the piece that got them ticking.

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READ: 20-21 hasn’t even started but this assist already makes us miss David Silva

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City’s loss is Real Sociedad’s gain. Sitting second in La Liga, the technical wizardry of Silva has taken them to a new level this season. The 34-year-old is lighting up the pitch at Anoeta, just as he used to at the Etihad.

Having spent almost the entirety of the 2010s in the Premier League, Silva had left Valencia as one of the country’s hottest prospects and has returned a four-time Premier League champion and Spain’s fourth all-time top scorer.

Over a decade had passed since he last played a La Liga match, but he’s slotted seamlessly back in. Even the rain of Manchester seems to have him relishing it when the heavens invariably open in the Basque Country. He looks at home in every sense.

Silva only made the move after a late twist, turning down the opportunity to play Champions League football with Lazio to return to his home country.

The move seems to have worked out well for all parties, save for incensed Lazio director Igli Tare, who responded to Silva’s snub by saying: “I have great respect for the player, but not for the man.”

La Real manager Imanol Alguacil evidently has a different opinion.

“Diego Maradona would find it hard to get into our team,” he said in October after the City hero made an immediate impression.

“He could do it all on the ball — but not so much without it. We have David Silva who has almost the same talent, but also works hard.”

The player himself did well to join a club that’s evidently heading in the right direction, looking in the ascendancy prior to his arrival with a push for a top-four finish last season before falling away post-lockdown.

Martin Odegaard was so good in his loan stint from Real Madrid that Zinedine Zidane sanctioned for him to be called back to his parent club halfway through what was originally supposed to be a two-year deal.

The Norwegian starlet was a candidate for the club’s standout player last term, but they’ve replaced him adequately with a player at the opposite end of his career.

Not only has Silva seamlessly taken on the burden of becoming the side’s new creative fulcrum, but he has added leadership and experience to an otherwise youthful outfit, with fellow regulars Alexander Isak, Roberto Lopez, Mikel Oyarzabal, Aihen Munoz, Ander Guevera, Martin Zubimendi and Ander Barrenetxea all 23 or under.

Without directly contributing to a goal, he helped set the tempo in early season 3-0 wins over Elche, Getafe and Real Betis.

His first two assists wouldn’t take long, though, demonstrating that famous eye for a stunning pass twice in a 4-1 victory over Huesca. The first was a no-look switch to play Portu into the box, the second a lofted defence-splitting through ball to open up a one-on-one for Isak.

Any season ticket holder at the Etihad over the past 10 years will instantly recognise the vision, the technique and, above all, the effortlessness.

A first goal would follow. A glancing header in another comfortable 4-1 win, away at Celta Vigo, signalled he’s not lost that ruthlessness when drifting into spaces in and around the six-yard box.

As at City, La Real are starting to find out the difference he makes, having been sidelined for portions of the season and results have taken a hit.

He’s started eight La Liga matches in 2020-21 so far. Of those, their record reads: won seven, lost one. Scored 20, conceded three. They’ve failed to win any of the six league games he’s not started.

City fans will certainly hope he’s fit and available for one more special performance in Manchester after his new club were drawn against United in the Europa League knockout stage.

At the age of 34, Silva would surely have had no shortage of big-money offers in the Middle East. Given his achievements, he’d have had every right to take one and enjoy a semi-retirement away from the limelight.

But thankfully for anyone with a love of football, he’s still turning out in a competitive environment in one of the world’s best leagues.

There’s no sense of Silva slowing down as he continues to show the world what a talented and important player he remains. That’s a painful truth for City.

By Nestor Watach


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