He grew up through the youth system at Valencia, spending one year on loan at SD Eibar in the Segunda División and then another at Celta Vigo in the top tier. While out on loan he worked his way through the Spanish youth sides, going to the now-famous 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship in the same squad as Javi Garrido. Silva and Garrido reached the quarter-finals, where they were knocked out by an Argentine side captained by a fiery midfielder from San Lorenzo called Pablo Zabaleta, who opened the scoring.
On returning from his loan spell Silva was straight into the Valencia first team, where he has been ever since the start of the 2006/07 season. It only took him a few months of impressing for Valencia to make his international debut at the age of 20. It was during this season that Silva first came to the attention of most English football fans - me included - from his performance in the Champions League quarter final at Stamford Bridge. He scored an astonishing goal with that hammer of a left foot he has. The Guardian's Kevin McCarra wrote that he 'whipped an extravagant, wonderful drive', the BBC's Ian Hughes was very positive, commenting on Silva's 'dropping deep behind his strike partner David Villa, start[ing] to dictate the tempo.'
From there on, further progress as Valencia continued to do surprisingly well on the pitch given their off-field concerns. He won his first senior trophy in April 2008, setting up two of Valencia's goals in their 3-1 Copa del Rey final win over Getafe. It was an omen of things to come. He had played his way into the first team for Luis Aragonés' Spanish side, where he played on the left hand side of midfield. (Now is as good a time as any to underline that David Silva is not Martin Petrov. He might be a left-footer who plays on the left but don't expect him to charge down the flank and whip crosses in. He's much more nuanced than that.) Silva had an excellent tournament, impressing with his intelligent movement and creation as Spain passed their way to glory. He scored the third goal in their semi-final defeat of Russia and performed well in the final. Whatever else he does in football Silva will always be a member of that great Spanish side two summers ago, the finest European Champions of my lifetime.
Injuries disrupted his next season but he was sufficiently impressive to prompt Sid Lowe, the best writer on Spanish football in the English language, to write this of him:
As [Pepe] Reina recognised, "he might barely measure 1.50m but he has talent to die for". Former Liverpool winger Antonio Núñez declares him "among the most impressive footballers I've played with" – and Núñez played with the galácticos. El País says he has "a mine in his left foot", which might sound dangerous – especially for his left leg – but is a reflection of his talent, and there's temperament too: Silva is a tough, feisty little sod, Luis Aragonés insisting he has the "most balls" in the Spain squad, a former team-mate recalling the repeated kickings he took by cooing: "he just took it – he must have horchata [Valencia's cold milk drink] for blood." He certainly has mala leche, the bad milk Spaniards equate with fight...
Not bad for a footballer rejected by Madrid, who joined Valencia at 14 and was singled out as a special talent at 15 only to be dismissed as a "fútbol sala player" and a "myth" by one dressing-room heavyweight when he was promoted to the first-team squad. Not bad, above all, for a player starting his first match for four months on Saturday night; his first since the opening day; his first since overcoming the ankle injury that forced him into injections before every Euro 2008 game and an operation in September. It was, said Marca, "a blessed return". Silva had "arrived and kissed the saint", which might not have pleased Roger Moore but delighted Valencia's fans. The ones that bothered to turn up, anyway. "Silva," Marca insisted, "has changed Valencia's face". Victory, El País added, was "all thanks to Silva".
Since then it's been more of the same. Continued excellence at a club who could not break through the increasingly Old Firm duopoly of Spanish football. His stats have stayed at roughly the same level: just under ten goals, just over ten assists each season. As Juan Mata has grown into the side Silva has moved in off the left, drifting right or playing central behind David Villa. But as it became clearer that Valencia would never really challenge Real Madrid and Barcelona so it was also clearer David Silva would leave. He was repeatedly linked with those two and it is a surprise a move did not materialise: there are whispers about his fitness, which I am sure will have to be managed. But we have certainly bought a star.