Man City's David Silva deserving of, overdue individual Premier League accolades
On Oct. 17, 2010 at Bloomfield Road, Blackpool, a player of noticeably small stature, who had made his bruising debut in a 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane on the opening day of the season, announced his arrival on the football pitches of England to an already doubting public.
It involved a flourish of blazing colour that all, who were there will remember vividly.
In many ways, it embodied an entrance to the English football scene that shed bright light on just what kind of player Manchester City had managed to purchase that summer. It is worth remembering, in those days of early influence from then-coach Roberto Mancini, that City's side had a very different look to it than the team millions across the planet are familiar with today.
Fast forward eight long years and David Silva is one of the few remaining players from that early Mancini era.
His 2017-18 season has been a kaleidoscope of emotions. The premature birth of his son has transformed the last two months of his life into a logistical and emotional nightmare. Throughout this period, with his club allowing him as much compassionate leave to return to his wife and son in Spain as he requires, his form on the football pitch has simply soared.
If, as he has attested, playing the game is one of the few uncluttered moments of freedom from worry he can afford at present; a tiny window of escape in a deeply fraught time for his family, the unfettered way he has played the game this season confirms this.
Silva's two goals at Stoke this week helped reclaim a 16-point cushion for City at the top of the Premier League. Both were taken with the kind of aplomb only the game's top operators can conjure. Timing, awareness of space, positioning and touch all came into play, as the tiny Spaniard finished off two typically beautiful City moves with crisp and unerring finishes.
Man City's nerveless progress towards the game's great prizes this year has been achieved thanks to many qualities. The work of obsessive coach Pep Guardiola has stirred things up nicely, bringing new form to those flagging and staggering results to others, who seemed to be on the outside looking in.
There have been countless examples of what the Catalan's burgeoning enthusiasm and meticulous planning can do for a player: witness Nicolas Otamendi's transformation from horizontal banshee to super-reliable defensive pillar or Fabian Delph's emergence as a ball-playing left-back. A man brought in from Aston Villa as a sixth or seventh choice midfield stopgap has been remodelled into one of the cogs of this purring machine's mean defence.
Up front, Sergio Aguero looks a pace quicker and Raheem Sterling has been reinvented as an all-action goal-scoring winger in the best traditions of the club.
Early sightings of Kevin De Bruyne, playing sumptuous pass after sumptuous pass, quickly hoisted the Belgian into possible Player of the Season contention and he has not disappointed throughout a season of fabulous midfield probing and assisting goals.
De Bruyne of late, however, has seemed to mould his game to the team's needs more and more, dropping deeper and playing more of the simple linking passes than those raking right-wing assists that littered the show before Christmas.
Silva, meanwhile, continues to be the fulcrum around which the whole City system functions. Toughness, guile and balletic movement between the lines allow him to operate in a way that few have mastered down the years.
The game alluded to at the beginning of this article should have alerted us to all of this eight years ago.
With newly-promoted Blackpool making a spirited fightback, there came a moment that would hoist the little man's reputation in giant neon letters. After receiving the ball from James Milner near the touchline on the right wing, Silva jinked inside Stephen Crainey, leaving the defender sprawling, shifted his weight effortlessly to the other side leaving David Vaughan in a similarly shambolic state, before turning back onto his left foot and with one laser quick movement, curling a left-footed shot around Charlie Adam and inside the far post of goalkeeper Matt Gilks.
In one sublime, serpentine movement, the era of David Silva in the Premier League was upon us.
That such snapshots of exquisite skill are now taken with a pinch of salt underlines how the Premier League has adapted to his presence. Silva, however, has never found his name on any individual trophies. In fact, he has only once managed to squeeze into the Premier League team of the season once, in 2011-12.
In light of what he has done and what he continues to do, the English game would seem to have ludicrously short-changed him. There will be few arguments if that slight is finally put to bed this season and David Silva is voted the Premier League's Footballer of the Year.
Simon is one of ESPN FC's Manchester City bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @bifana_bifana.