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Passing of the torch: Man City legend David Silva sets up emotional Foden transition

5:40 PM GMT+4 26/06/2019
Phil Foden and David Silva, Manchester City
The 33-year-old has once again confirmed that he will leave the Etihad Stadium in 2020, setting up an emotional but logical transition season

The news would not have come as a huge shock, but that makes it no less real. David Silva has confirmed that the 2019-20 campaign will be his last as a Manchester City player, setting up supporters for another fond yet painful farewell.

Two years ago it was Pablo Zabaleta, last year Yaya Toure, and just a few months ago Vincent Kompany decided to call time on his City career. Now fans will have to gear up for one final year of Silva, perhaps the player they cherish more than any other.

The idea that this will be Silva’s last season at City is not new. As far back as September 2017, when Silva was revealed to have been in contract talks with City, it became clear that one of the biggest factors in the Spaniard’s decision to extend his deal was that he wanted to complete 10 years at the club.

And he said as much himself a year later, in an interview with the BBC. "For City, two more seasons - what's left on my contract. After that, I don't know. It depends how I feel physically and mentally.”

There was no suggestion that “after that” included another year at the Etihad Stadium: "I've always said that I'd like to play for Las Palmas - my local team. But we'll see how things go.”

His City swansong has been set in stone for a while.

“This is the last one,” he confirmed this week. “Ten years for me is enough. It’s the perfect time for me. Initially, City were talking about two [more] years.

“It completes the cycle. It’s a nice round figure. I can never see myself playing against City for another team. So 10 years – that’s it.”

Silva’s personal situation has changed and so have some of his priorities, but not his City exit plan.

The 33-year-old now has a child, of course, and he wants to be back in Spain by the time Mateo, who has made a full recovery after being born at just 25 weeks, starts school at the age of five.

That gives the World Cup winner two years after leaving City to move back home, but while that would present an opportunity to return to Las Palmas in 2020, as he has long planned, sources close to Silva insist that is now unlikely to happen, and that a completely new adventure is on the cards.

Silva does not want to be seen as a mercenary who turns up at his local club at the end of his career purely due to some perceived sense of mutual obligation; he would rather sign up for a new challenge at a club that approaches him off their own back and believes he can still contribute.

A move to the United States has been considered - David Beckham’s Inter Miami launches in Major League Soccer next year - but the lure of Japan is said to be just as tempting, if not more so.

Vissel Kobe made an approach earlier this year, and the thought of joining up with David Villa and Andres Iniesta counts in the J-League club’s favour. 

That’s why talk of a summer transfer to Qatar was so absurd; Silva knows what he wants, and that includes 10 years at City.

But even so, he knows his time at the top level is coming to an end.

Silva played some of the best football of his career in the second part of City’s 100-point season, despite sharing his time between Manchester and Valencia as his son fought for his life, but he told Pep Guardiola and his coaches midway through 2018-19 that he could no longer play three games a week.

Due to injuries to his team-mates, however, he had to. As City went on their 14-game Premier League-winning streak after losing at Newcastle in January, Silva started 11 of those games. He started against Newport, Swansea and Brighton in the FA Cup, started the Carabao Cup final (after playing 90 minutes against Burton), and started each of City’s four Champions League knock-out games.

Inevitably, his form started to suffer. Even the fans who are most upset at his impending departure began to suggest, respectfully, that he be taken out of the team as City closed in on a domestic treble.

One time, he was. Phil Foden started against Tottenham in April, a game Guardiola has since described as “the toughest of the season”. The youngster scored the only goal of the game, suggesting that he is ready to step into Silva’s shoes.

The local lad’s next start, an overawed showing against Leicester City, was proof that one more year of transition will be vital.

It seems to make perfect sense; a season of Silva and Foden sharing time in the first team, the ultimate fan favourite gradually handing over the torch to the 18-year-old many believe will be his successor.

Short of inventing a time machine and making Silva 21 again, that is as good as it gets for City fans. Not only that, but it has been on the cards for years now; it is the logical - and romantic - conclusion to the Spaniard's glittering career.

But it will be no less emotional when the time does come to say goodbye.