Silva goes from paradise to Manchester. Every cloud...
Brought up on Gran Canaria, £25 million David Silva is loving life half a world away in the northern rain
Sunday 27 February 2011
If the Isle of Wight had produced a World Cup and European Championship winner, local pride would be intense. So it is on Gran Canaria, off the coast of north-west Africa, where David Silva can claim to have superseded Juan Carlos Valeron as the island's most famous son since completing his double with the national team and then earning a £25m transfer from Valencia to Manchester City last summer.
As an ambassador for the "paradise" of Gran Canaria, Silva could be forgiven for yearning for home amid the Manchester rain, but like most footballers he grew up fast and learnt to adapt accordingly. There was a move north to Valencia aged only 14, before loans to Eibar in the Basque country and then a further step up the ladder to Celta Vigo.
Sitting in the grand Mancunian Suite overlooking the Eastlands pitch, he recalled a youth long gone, a world away: "I was brought up in a small fishing town, but I did everything a normal kid would do at that age. I just knocked about with my mates and family, went to school and found wherever we could to play football." Facilities were basic, which had the advantages that generations of street footballers have discovered: "Grass? No way! We'd play on the beach, on a hard surface like asphalt and concrete. The players from the island are characterised by having a good touch, like Valeron.
"I left the village for the bigger city then and got used to it. I went to an ordinary school, local kids from the area, and Valencia put us up in halls of residence for people on their staff. Then when I was 16 my parents came over and we lived together." His father Fernando was a policeman and has remained close, being responsible for security at Valencia and now living in England with Silva's younger brother.
Smaller than average he may have been – "small with big balls," Spain's former manager Luis Aragones said – but his potential had long been noted and he played for the national team at four different age levels before graduating to the full national team.
At Valencia, he linked up with David Villa in a formidable partnership that took both to Euro 2008 winners' medals. Even City, not short of funds, were deterred by Valencia's valuation of ¤135 million when they wanted to take both players to the Premier League, and last summer the partnership was split, Villa joining his World Cup-winning team-mates at Barcelona while City finally snared Silva.
He arrived a little miffed at having played so small a part in the South African triumph, yet suffering because his pre-season programme had been incomplete. "Like any player you want to play, so it was disappointing," he said. "I played the first game and then I was out and there was never any explanation. Though to be fair there was never an explanation when you were selected, so you couldn't say anything. To tell the truth I was just as happy to win that trophy as when I played more and won the European Championship two years before, because the main thing is that we made the country happy.
"I found it quite tough at the beginning [with City] because I wasn't in the right physical shape for the start of the season. That was down to missing the first part of pre-season after my late arrival after the World Cup. There were a couple of friendly internationals involving long journeys which also interrupted things so I didn't have the time to get fit. Since I've got to 100 per cent fitness-wise my form has started to come."
Since then, he has been making City followers happy as well, living up to his reputation once he had finally settled and found a role for himself as a support striker starting on either flank.
Fitness has also been improved by taking yoga lessons from the same teacher as Ryan Giggs, developing a sharpness that he believes has helped him slip away from some of the worst of the tackling in a League where the referees are notoriously more permissive than on the Continent. Yet although City's performance in winning 4-1 away to Fulham in November was among their very best of the season, they go into the return game this afternoon no better than third in the table, having lost the crucial derby at Old Trafford two weeks ago.
"Before the United game we were maybe vying for the title. It's not that we're not fighting for it now but obviously it's been made a little bit more difficult now, having lost that game. We're still involved in the Uefa Cup and the FA Cup and we're not out of the title race yet so while there is hope, we'll be fighting till the end."
City's manager Roberto Mancini appears to be using his squad well, and last week's FA Cup thrashing of Notts County earned a tie with Aston Villa and, if successful, another home game with Everton or Reading.
Edin Dzeko has added something to the attack, taking some of the weight from Carlos Tevez. With Mario Balotelli as the joker, there are interesting options, as demonstrated when that trio played together in the victory over Aris on Thursday, with Silva behind them. "It's not easy," Silva said, "you get a lot of talented individuals but the team's got to come first. You've got to get a set-up where people are all part of the group, which then can allow the individuals to express themselves within that. We're all trying to do that and gradually we are getting success in terms of how we play."
Mark Hughes will receive a warm welcome on his return to Eastlands this afternoon. For Fulham, 4-0 down in an hour last time the teams met, it may be a hot one.
Manchester City versus Fulham is a 3pm kick-off today
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