Is there a Silva lining for United?

Valencia’s David Silva has dropped his strongest hint yet that the Premier League is where his future lies. Last year the 24-year-old admitted to being flattered by foreign suitors but remained adamant that Valencia, and a La Liga title, was at the top of his agenda. The ensuing season now sees the Mestalla club sit third in La Liga and a staggering twenty four points adrift from Real Madrid. Couple this evident chasm of quality between the top two and the rest of La Liga with the huge debt that the club finds itself in and there is the very tangible possibility that both Davids (Silva and Villa), their most marketable assets, be sold.

“When you hear a club like Manchester United is interested in you it is an honour,” Silva said. “I am very aware of the Premier League and in recent years it has been the stand-out league in the world. If it came calling, especially if it was a club like Manchester United, it would be very hard to resist.”

Silva, in no uncertain terms, is receptive to the Premier League. More specifically: Manchester United. There is an obvious dearth of creativity in United’s midfield and with Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes at an age where younger stars need to shoulder the pressures of success I think that Silva offers a solution to many problems. Though Antonio Valencia has excelled this season and Nani has markedly improved, neither possesses the kind of versatility and vision that Silva has to offer.

Known as el chino and described as having ‘a mine in his left foot’ (El Pais) his contribution to this weekend’s victory over Xerez aptly highlighted the kind of quality he would bring to any team: receiving the ball on the right hand side in the opposition third he, looking the wrong way, nonchalantly played a reverse through ball behind the fullback for Mata to slip on to and score his second of the game. Silva has the ability to play wide left, as an inside forward coming off the wrong wing (the right), or directly behind the striker. His attacking versatility would be welcomed at United. Alex Ferguson would again have the option (I stress, option) of playing a fluid 4-3-3 going forward (similar to the interchanging three-pronged-attack frequently deployed in Ronaldo’s last season with the club). Simply put: his creativity would cause the kind of headache for selection and tactics that Ferguson has lacked this season.

His critics, and there are some well voiced, claim three arguments: that he is injury prone, that he is ‘lightweight’, and that he is susceptible to the odd bout of leg clutching and gamesmanship not endeared to by the Premier League fans. To answer the injury prone myth: in his first two full seasons as a senior Valencia player he only missed six games. His first prolonged layoff occurred due to an ankle injury in 2008 that was exacerbated by Spain’s successful European Championships (of which he played a key role) resulting in surgery in September of the same year. The injury kept him out for three months and limited him to nineteen senior appearances in the league. This season he has made twenty nine appearances for Valencia in La Liga out of a possible thirty six. Conclusion: one three month layoff does not make him a perennial injury worry.

The second criticism of the player is as unfounded as it is just plain stupid. The moment we see the likes of Fabregas, Iniesta, and Xavi kick a ball we realise that physical stature has little to do with technical excellence and potency on the field of play (the comparisons are justified – Silva is continuously picked to play alongside them in a Spanish national team burgeoning with midfield maestros). Furthering this, Silva has a reputation amongst those who have played with him of being a very tough player: Luis Aragonés, former Spain manager, insisting that he has the ‘most balls’ in the Spain squad (he actually took pain killing injections, worsening his ankle injury, to continue playing in Euro 2008 – hardly a fairy). The third point is, I concede, one I have seen glimpses of in the past two seasons from the talented young attacker. It is a criticism more akin to La Liga’s general propensity for cheap free kicks than it is a singular attack on Silva himself though. The player is not a diver but does exhibit habits of gamesmanship that would certainly irk opposition fans across the country. Every player, however, can unlearn these habits.

United, and others, have been linked with Silva for two seasons now but there is still the chance that Valencia will keep hold of their star for at least one more year. I think, though, the club is resigned to the inevitability of losing both Davids this summer because the gulf between the top two in Spain and the rest of the league is, frankly, embarrassing and the loss of one would surely facilitate the departure of another. I do however remember a similar period last year where I was absolutely certain a Premier League outfit (United in particular) would sign, or at least make public moves for, Wesley Sneijder. I felt he, like Silva now, offered a proven class of versatility and creativity…yet nothing materialised.

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