With David Silva admitting he expects to leave Manchester City in 2020, it prompts the question, albeit with two seasons to play, what sort of legacy will he leave?
In many ways, Silva has been a revolutionary player as the league has moved away from the overt focus on physicality to a more refined a skilful approach with scores of English teenagers – Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, Callum Hudson-Odoi – mimicking his style.
Our friends at Football Whispers take a look at where the Spaniard lies in the all-time list of Premier League attacking midfielders, with an emphasis on the role hence the omission of midfielders Steven Gerrard, Luka Modric and Frank Lampard plus secondary striker Dennis Bergkamp.
7) Matt Le Tissier (Southampton)
The 90s were a barren period for playmakers in the English game; Paul Gascoigne reserved his best club football at Rangers and Juninho briefly fluttered but, ultimately, 4-4-2 was the formation du jour and that didn’t leave much room for anything resembling a creative type in the middle.
Except at The Dell, where Le Tissier worked his way up through the ranks and was so talented for a team of Southampton’s stature, they had to fit their system around him allowing him the freedom to drift around the field, score ridiculous goals and earn admiring glances from a teenage Xavi.
With 124 goals and 64 assists in 313 Premier League games, Le Tissier was born 15 years too early. His one-club status only adding to his appeal as a mercurial, free and easy playmaker.
6) Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
The German’s return has been excellent since arriving at the Emirates from Real Madrid in what proved a sea change of a transfer for Arsene Wenger, who finally bit the bullet and spent big.
To date, Ozil has 24 goals and 50 assists – having reached the latter figure in March inside just 141 games, a Premier League record eclipsing Eric Cantona’s mark for Leeds United and Manchester United.
That alone is worthy of inclusion on this list but there’s always a “but” with Ozil and unfortunately, the nagging feeling that he’s not improved Arsenal nor truly delivered consistently in matches against truly high-class opposition keeps him outside the top five.
5) Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)
As pure a No. 10 as there is in the Premier League at present (even if he wears No. 23 on his back), whereas Ozil seems to have stalled or even regressed per season, the Dane has made incremental improvements year on year and we could still be yet to see his best.
Like all the best playmakers, Eriksen is fantastic at finding space for himself and playing the game at his own speed. Maybe he’s been enhanced by having Harry Kane in front of him; or maybe Kane’s been enhanced by feeding off Eriksen.
Either way, his transformation from an inconsistent, lightweight young talent into a true Premier League force has been brilliant to watch. At 26, he still has plenty left to offer.
4) Kevin De Bruyne (Chelsea/Manchester City)
Few young players get a second shot of making it at an elite club but then few young players have been as talented as the Belgian who was ludicrously discarded by Chelsea yet is comfortably now one of the best footballers in the world.
His performances throughout the 2017/18 season were era-defining and the demands placed on his shoulders and technical guidance by Pep Guardiola have only improved him.
At his best, De Bruyne just plays as if he’s operating within his own time zone, picking passes the opposition can’t see and gliding through space when in possession. With 44 assists and 21 goals in 102 games, if he continues to operate at such a high level into his 30s he’ll surely become the English top-flights very best.
3) Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal/Chelsea)
With only Ryan Giggs possessing more than the 111 assists the Spaniard has dished out over two spells in the Premier League, he simply has to feature.
Although his time at Chelsea has seen him lose some of his potency as he’s drifted deeper into midfield, his breakout years at Arsenal marked him out a real tour de force in the division. With a brilliant passing technique and the ability to drive past the opposition with skill, speed and vision, he was a generational talent.
Along with an injury-plagued Robin van Persie he helped keep Arsenal relevant in the title race, although it was with the Blues where he finally got his hands on the trophy, lifting it twice in 2015 and 2017.
2) Paul Scholes (Manchester United)
Perhaps sacrilegious to not include him as No1, the issue with Scholes is that he played so many positions across his career – from left midfield to second striker to a No. 10 – it’s difficult to assess exactly which was his best one.
Just like Le Tissier he was a different kind of English footballer and just like the Southampton man, Scholes was mistreated by the national team. But for United, he was everyone’s favourite teammate.
And although time has been very kind to him, the ultimate test is when asking players of that era – from all clubs and qualities – who the best opponent they faced was, the vast majority will say Scholes. He did things naturally with the ball few others would even dare.
1. David Silva (Manchester City)
At 5ft 6ins, Silva wasn’t built to succeed in the land of the giants that was the Premier League around the turn of the decade, where athleticism and power were valued more than talent. But the Spaniard’s switch to City has coincided with the English game reassessing its identity.
His close control and balance are so good in cramped spaces it is the textbook for how to manoeuvre yourself when pressed by defenders and he’s been as responsible for City’s rise to prominence as anyone, including Sheikh Mansour.
What’s more, he’s still doing incredible things for City at the age of 32 and by the time he leaves the club in 2020, with 49 goals and 75 assists, he’ll surely have made it past two milestones.
* Odds subject to change
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