David Silva has settled into a domestic routine at his house in an elegant village near Manchester. After training, he visits the supermarket, wandering around the aisles and picking up a roast chicken and some vegetables. He likes the relative anonymity, a distinct contrast to his life in Valencia where he felt he lived in a goldfish bowl.
He may have an unassuming lifestyle but the midfielder is playing for probably the richest club in the world. After three years of unprecedented investment at Manchester City FC, qualification for this season's UEFA Champions League represented a significant strategic step forward for his team, manager Roberto Mancini and the club's owners, the Abu Dhabi United Group. "The UEFA Champions League is certainly where we want to be and the level we have been aiming for," says Silva.
For Silva and Manchester City, last term was a turning point. After an inconsistent start, City won the FA Cup and finished third in the Premier League. "It was a key season for us. We won our first trophy for 35 years and qualified for the Champions League, claiming a place among the best teams in Europe," says City's No21.
Capped 54 times by Spain, Silva knows you need more than a group of talented players to succeed at the very top. A winning mentality is essential: "
We're up there with the elite now and this is enabling us to attract winners. These players know how to win, must win and accept nothing else. Winners don't believe in fate like others do. They simply cannot accept defeat."
The 25-year-old has had to adapt his playing style to the English game and is now recognised as one of the finest attacking midfielders in Europe. So how different was it at first? "The biggest difference is the games themselves. Football in England is much more direct than in Spain – not just in terms of tactics or style, but in the overall approach. Even when you're winning 2-0, the crowd are urging the team to get the ball up to score a third."
Adapting to this more direct approach was just one hurdle Silva had to overcome. He has also had to dispel the myth that a player must be built like a heavyweight boxer to win a Premier League midfield battle. (At 1.70m – 5ft 7in – he is the same height as Lionel Messi.)
Silva prefers to play as a "mediapunta" but the Premier League is hardly a paradise for playmakers in the No10 mould. He has tailored the role to suit City's formation, however, interchanging positions with Samir Nasri to create problems for the opposition.
"It's now getting a bit easier for me," says the former Valencia CF schemer. "When you experience playing in two different leagues, you learn to adapt. You pick up elements from the best virtues of each culture. You adapt to the speed of the Premier League, and you combine that with your Spanish instincts, to spend time on the ball, what you've learned about reading the game."
Yet it is clear Silva is happier talking about the team rather than himself. "We need to improve upon what we've achieved already and keep progressing as a team," he says. "Of course, we've got to do well in the Champions League and, well, we should aim to win it. Why not? I don't think that is out of the question."
If City fail to beat FC Bayern München on Wednesday it will be, though should SSC Napoli win at Villarreal CF even that will not be enough.
The full interview with David Silva is available in the new issue of Champions, official magazine of the UEFA Champions League.
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