How will you remember David Silva once he’s retired?
Will you remember him as a handy little player who was pleasant on the eye?
Or, like me, will you consider him as one of the very best midfielders of the Premier League era?
His brace away to Stoke last night (no, I’m not gong to use THAT phrase) was the latest reminder of the Spanish magician’s class and poise.
Earlier this season he proved himself to be the best player on the pitch in the Manchester derby.
As he drifted in between the lines, his head on a pivot so he’s always aware of Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Kevin De Bruyne’s exact locations, he sapped the energy out of United’s players and maintained control in a fixture that could have opened up.
In an age and league where physicality and athleticism is becoming more and more important by the day, Silva reminds us that technique and understanding are not only enough to prosper, they’re enough to carve out a legacy.
When Silva first arrived at City, James Milner and Joleon Lescott are said to have privately held fears that he would be bullied out of games.
Until the first training session that is, when nobody, not even the biggest, strongest members of the squad, could get the ball off Silva in a training match played on half a pitch.
Rarely hurried and never flustered, not even a Manchester derby of true significance and Sky Sports hyperbole, watched by hundreds of millions worldwide, was enough to induce nerves in Silva.
He knows his game, he trusts his instincts, and most of all, he believes in beautiful football’s all-conquering power.
Although under Pep Guardiola we’ve also seen a more competitive Silva, one who hustles opponents off the ball and nips at their ankles.
Kevin De Bruyne has been City’s best player this season but Silva isn’t far behind — they are the perfect double act.
The strawberry-blonde Belgian looks for Hollywood passes while Silva acts as the metronome.
And Silva’s unwavering consistency has made him such an important player for City over the last seven and three quarter seasons.
Only once has he played fewer than 40 games in a season (all comps) since arriving in England.
He’s played under three permanent managers and each one has recognised Silva’s importance to implementing their philosophy.
His ability to retain possession, spacial awareness, and reading of the game are invaluable.
It’s as if he sees the game from above, like an early version of Football Manager.
The term ‘football IQ’ has always made me cringe but if it’s appropriate for any player, then Silva is that player.
He seems to understand football on a deeper level to most, sensitive to the flow of the game’s tide, aware of the subtle adjustments needed for each situation.
As with any artist, the joy is in the details.
If Silva wants Sane to take on the full-back he will pass the ball to him in a way that encourages such an attack.
If he wants the ball back off Sane to exploit the space created elsewhere by dragging the game wide, then he passes it with that intention.
The differences between the two passes are almost undetectable, a subtle change in pace, which foot it’s aimed at, Silva’s first movement after playing the ball — this is how you properly dictate a game, by making your team-mates’ decision for them when possible.
Xavi and Andres Iniesta are masters of the same art.
Spain have had a wealth of midfield talent for the last decade — you can add Cesc Fabregas, Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso, Koke, Thiago Alcantara and Isco to the aforementioned Barcelona maestros just for starters.
Despite all that competition, Silva has played 118 games for his country, putting him sixth on their all-time most-capped list.
He’s scored 35 goals as well — only Fernando Torres, Raul and David Villa have scored more for Spain.
It’s no coincidence that Silva has figured for both Spain and City during their respective golden eras.
If all goes to plan, he will add a third league title to his trophy cabinet come May, which will put him level with Frank Lampard.
I mention Lamps because the Chelsea legend rightfully belongs in the elite group of midfielders considered the very best since the Premier League’s inception.
Other members include, but are not limited to, Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard, Patrick Vieira, Ryan Giggs and Roy Keane.
I firmly believe Silva will have earned a place in this upper echelon by the time he retires.
He may even experience something similar to Scholes; underappreciated in his time but adored post-retirement.
You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
He has a few years left before he calls it a day.
But it’s not too early to give thanks.
Thanks for memories, Merlin, I look forward to a few more.