David Silva took to the field with his baby boy, Mateo, and cradled him in his arms as the Manchester City team lined up before kickoff.
It was a touching scene — and a rare one before a Premier League game — involving a father and son who, in their own very different ways, have written their own chapters in City’s recent history.
The dad, a creative Spanish playmaker who is arguably the greatest player in City’s 138-year history, has been a popular member of the squad since his arrival from Valencia in 2010, but his bond with the club has grown even stronger, because of the premature birth of Mateo in December last year.
City granted Silva compassionate leave for various spells during the second half of last season so that he could return to Spain to be with his partner and Mateo in the hospital.
Silva missed key games in what proved to be a record-breaking season for City, but coach Pep Guardiola repeatedly expressed the “family comes first” mantra.
In a recently released behind-the-scenes documentary of City’s season, when a TV crew was given virtually unlimited access to the City squad, Guardiola said to his players before one game: “You have to win for David Silva and his girlfriend... If you go out there and we suffer, then suffer for him. Is that clear?”
Silva used Twitter to publicly thank City for its support in what he described as “the hardest months of my life,” so the sight of Mateo on the Etihad Stadium field before Sunday’s game against Huddersfield Town was heartwarming.
His father proceeded to put on a show for Mateo, tormenting Huddersfield’s defense and capping a brilliant performance in a 6-1 win with a curling free-kick into the top corner.
Looked after by his mother in a VIP box during the game, the nine-month-old Mateo was in the locker room afterward, surrounded by City’s jubilant players for photos that were quickly posted on social media.
“His son will never forget,” Guardiola said. “That the first time he saw his father play football — he scored that outstanding goal.”
El Mago (the Magician), as Silva is known, is 32 now, but continues to be a key member of City’s team. His importance has soared in recent days because of an injury to fellow playmaker Kevin De Bruyne that could rule him out for about two months.
The creative burden will fall heavily on Silva over the coming weeks, but, with Mateo seemingly healthy and Silva having made the decision to retire from international duty with Spain, there could be a new lease of life inside the player that City’s fans have taken to their hearts more than ever.
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