David Silva says joining Manchester City eight years ago was “one of the best decisions” of his life, despite interest from Barcelona and Real Madrid at the time.
The Spain midfielder, then 24, was signed from Valencia in July 2010.
Silva accepts it is a dream for most Spanish footballers to play for Barca or Real, but says the strength of City’s interest that proved decisive.
“City wanted me,” he says in an interview for the Premier League Show.
“They had been calling me since December, asking me to come and play for them.
“I thought, ‘who wants me? City want me, so that’s where I’ll go’.
“Back then I was living with my parents and they were getting divorced and it was the right time to get away from there, from Spain, and live a new experience. It turns out I made the right move.”
In a rare and wide-ranging interview with Gary Lineker, which you can watch on Thursday at 22:00 BST on BBC Two and the BBC Sport website and app, Silva also talks about:
- The biggest highlight of his time at City.
- How football helped him through a difficult year after the premature birth of his son.
- Why City manager Pep Guardiola is “a football genius”.
- Who City’s main rivals are this season.
- His plans for the future.
Silva has helped City win the Premier League three times, but it was the FA Cup win in 2011 that is the highlight of his club career so far.
City beat Stoke 1-0 at Wembley, allowing Silva – also a World Cup and two-time European Championship winner – to lift the first of the seven major trophies he has won at the club.
“That was the turning point for success,” he said.
“Once you win, you get used to winning and that’s not a bad thing. The same has happened in the Spanish national team – winning the first title was a game-changer and we carried on winning. So the FA Cup was a real highlight.”
‘Football helped me through tough moment’
While Silva has enjoyed plenty of success at City, his time at the club has not been without challenges.
Last December, Silva’s son Mateo was born prematurely. The 32-year-old would spend the next five months travelling between Manchester and the hospital in Spain where his child was being cared for.
“It was really tough,” Silva added.
“It was so difficult with him being in hospital for so long. You don’t stop thinking about it all the time. Besides, he was in Spain, meaning I had to travel a lot and I could hardly train. I didn’t sleep much, I wasn’t eating well. But, luckily, the team was doing really well and that helped me a lot.
“I’ve said it before that the only times I could get it out of my mind was playing in matches. Then I would start thinking about everything once the match was over. But yes, it was a really good get-out. Football is what we like and enjoy most.
“Now he’s doing fine and really everything was worth it. He suffered a lot but now he’s growing up really fast.”
‘Pep’s a footballing genius’
Silva will be 33 in January, but the former Valencia midfielder believes he has been given a new lease of life under Guardiola.
He has started three of City’s four games so far this season, scoring a brilliant free-kick in the 6-1 win against Huddersfield on 19 August.
“Pep Guardiola sees things before they happen and that’s an advantage – a massive plus,” Silva said.
“It’s like he explains it to you and you grasp it straight away. Something that I’d never seen before. And this goes for all areas: from the keeper through to the striker. In the past, some of my trainers had focused more on attack, others more on defence – but he covers the whole pitch.
I think I’ve learned to be more patient on the pitch; I used to move around a lot and wanted to be all over the place. He’s taught me to stick to a more determined zone and wait for the ball to get to me to give us the upper hand. So, yes, I’ve improved in that sense.
“He’s a footballing genius.”
A closer title battle this year?
City have made an unbeaten start to their title defence, but a draw with Wolves means they sit two points behind Liverpool, Chelsea and Watford.
The Blues won the Premier League by 19 points last season and Silva is expecting a number of teams to be in contention this term.
“Other teams have strengthened,” he said. “Liverpool and Chelsea have, United seem to be having some issues. Then there’s Tottenham who play really good football, I think they’ll be in the running.”
Two more seasons at City?
Silva’s contract at Etihad Stadium expires in two years’ time – when he will be 35 – and the midfielder is open-minded about where his long-term future lies.
He said: “For City, two more seasons – what’s left on my contract. After that, I don’t know. It depends how I feel physically and mentally.
“I’ve always said that I’d like to play for Las Palmas – my local team. But we’ll see how things go in two years and take it all from there.”