It seemed an impossible task, but Silva somehow improved in 2018. This was the year in which the Spanish string-puller won his third Premier League title and fourth domestic cup at Manchester City, and he’s already delivered several superb showings in 2018/19 as Pep Guardiola’s charges target more glory at home and abroad.
Kevin De Bruyne may have been City’s standout performer in their latest title-winning season, but Silva wasn’t far behind. The former Valencia playmaker scored 10 goals and supplied 14 assists in all competitions in 2017/18, showing once again that no one in the Premier League can run games as effectively and consistently as him.
His form was even more impressive when you consider the personal issues he was dealing with for much of the campaign. Silva’s son Mateo was born prematurely in December 2017, and after admitting the infant was fighting for his life “day by day”, the midfielder missed several games as he flew back and forth between England and Spain.
Mateo battled through and was allowed to go home on May 11, just two days before City became the first team in English top-flight history to break the 100-point barrier with a 1-0 victory over Southampton. Silva didn’t play in that match but his contribution to City’s success was recognised by his fellow professionals, who voted him into the PFA Team of the Year.
Spain were among the favourites to win the World Cup this summer, but things didn’t go to plan for Silva or his country. The schemer started all four games for Fernando Hierro’s men, but a penalty shootout defeat by Russia saw Spain crash out in the last 16 after an insipid display in Moscow.
Silva announced his retirement from international football in August to focus on his club career – and City have reaped the rewards in recent months.
It’s to the 32-year-old’s immense credit that the champions have barely missed the injured De Bruyne, with Silva starring alongside namesake Bernardo to help City go toe-to-toe with Liverpool at the top and reach the knockout stages of the Champions League. He’s scored eight goals and laid on another three in those two competitions this term, but such statistics have never done justice to the totality of Silva’s influence.
“He’s one of the best players I’ve trained,” Guardiola said in October. “I’ve had a lot at Barça and Bayern but he’s on that list.”