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The genius of David Silva

Manchester City beat Manchester United 3-1 on Sunday, and David Silva’s goal wasn’t even the best part of his game.

Manchester City v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

There was an inconsequential moment around the 62nd minute of the Manchester derby that showed the almost omnipresent nature of David Silva.

City were attacking and Sergio Aguero had the ball right outside of the right side of United’s box. The camera was showing David de Gea, Manchester United’s defenders, the two other City attackers who were in the box, and Aguero. There was no way for Aguero to go forward, so he looked centrally. The space outside of United’s box was unoccupied, and Aguero’s short pass seemed to be to no one. But when Aguero made the pass, I rolled my eyes and said, “That’s David Silva” and at that second, Silva arrived from off-screen to receive the pass and restart the attack before United’s defenders could close him down.

Nothing came from the attack, and it can be simplified to the simple statement of: Silva was there to receive the ball when his teammate needed an outlet. But that’s what makes him such a mesmerizing player to watch.

A few games ago, I remember a commentator saying that Silva was always available for a pass and seemed to be in acres of space when he received the ball. It’s an incredible feat considering that defenders know how dangerous he is and are usually actively trying to prevent him from having any space and receiving the ball. Yet, whenever a teammate needs someone to pass the ball to, Silva is there, and he’s wide-open as if defenders had completely forgotten about him.

Of course, defenders don’t forget about him, Silva is just amazing at constantly moving and creating space from the second that the defenders face the action. He preys on the simple impossibility of defenders facing him and the ball at the same time. Every midfielder and attacker is taught to find space in that same way, but there’s only a handful in history who have mastered it as much Silva to the point that it seems that he’s not being marked. Genius sometimes isn’t about doing something brand new, but about mastering the essential skills and using them really well.

That genius manifests itself in Silva’s movement, his passing and his general intelligence of the game. He gets into spaces, he’s always available for his teammates, his body position is perfect for receiving the pass and transitioning into his next move, he doesn’t waste motion, if he’s surrounded when he gets the ball, his touches either take him out of pressure or bait defenders into fouls, he makes the correct passes and he passes the ball to his teammates at the angle, to the foot, in the space, with the weight, that allows them to do what they have to do as efficiently as possible. He’s so good at understanding the game that it in action, he seems precognitive.

I hate to praise a bald man, but when Silva is at his best, it feels supernatural. As if he’s reached that state of heightened genius that the old poets and writers used to ascribe to divinity. Even in a Manchester City team of players who are drilled in short passing, finding space and constant movement, Silva stands out as a master of that fluid intelligence on the field. And now he’s scoring more goals in his old age, so that’s another headache for defenders to deal with.