David Silva opens up on the anguish of seeing his baby boy fight for survival



Pep Guardiola gathered his players together in the home dressing-room at the Etihad last December and prepared to deliver the most passionate speech of his time as Manchester City manager.

‘Today you have to win for one reason,’ said Guardiola in a dramatic scene captured on the revealing documentary All or Nothing. ‘We have to win for David Silva and his girlfriend Yessica.

‘He’s f*****g suffering in life! When you go out there and you enjoy it, you enjoy it for him. If we go out there and we suffer, suffer for him. You know the situation.

‘Today you want to win for David and his girlfriend and his family. Is that clear?’

More than a thousand miles away in Valencia, Silva was sat in the Casa de Salud hospital where his baby son Mateo was fighting for survival after being born five months premature.

The City midfielder watched his team-mates beat Tottenham 4-1 on his iPad and realised they were playing for him as the heartfelt messages filtered through on social media.

‘To see your team-mates and coach there for you when you need them, it’s something I’ll be grateful for forever,’ he says at the City Football Academy ahead of Sunday’s Manchester derby.

For the next five months, Silva shuttled between England and Spain with Guardiola’s blessing. Between family and football.

Playing became a release but keeping himself fit enough for the Premier League wasn’t easy.

‘I ask myself how did I cope with that?’ says Silva. ‘It was such a tough situation.

‘It was obviously the toughest, most difficult period of my life. What’s going on in your private life and then trying to combine that with your working life.

‘Being on the road, travelling so much, you’re eating badly, you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not training and if you are training you are training badly. So I was completely out of my normal routine.’

In another scene from the documentary, Silva is filmed coming off the pitch and frantically searching for his mobile phone to check on news of Mateo.

‘Football was the thing that helped me the most. For that time I was out on the field, those 90 minutes, that was the only way, the only time I could forget stuff.

‘For that short time, you’d enjoy the game for what it was but then, as soon as that is over, you’re back to thinking about everything again.’

Sadly, Silva is no stranger to family tragedy. He was 15 when his five-year-old cousin Cynthia succumbed to cancer. After scoring a goal, he kisses a tattoo of her name on the inside of his left wrist.

Even that painful experience couldn’t prepare him for the ordeal of seeing his baby boy fighting for life.

‘I don’t think so,’ says Silva. ‘I don’t think anyone is prepared for something like this.

‘Everyone has an image of a premature child but until you live it and experience it, you just don’t know how bad it is.

‘Until you physically go through that situation you can’t appreciate what it would be like.’

Has it changed him as a man?

‘You view things from a different perspective. I think you learn to value the important things in life.

‘I don’t waste my time doing my head in about stupid things that don’t really matter and worrying over nothing.’

Thankfully, Mateo is healthy now as he approaches his first birthday. During those long, agonising hours spent at the hospital in Valencia, Silva imagined carrying his boy out at the Etihad.

He got his wish before the game against Huddersfield in August, describing it as the best moment of his life.

‘It was one of the thoughts that was going around my head when Mateo wasn’t well,’ he recalls. ‘When it actually happened, it was lovely.’

Silva admits the situation influenced his decision to quit international football.

The World Cup and European Championship winner will officially bring down the curtain on his Spain career when he takes an honorary kick-off before the friendly with Bosnia a week on Sunday.

The match takes place at the Estadio de Gran Canaria, close to Silva’s hometown of Arguineguin, and he is talking to Sportsmail as an ambassador for the Anfi group.

‘My family are still convinced I could be playing now, but having the chance to enjoy some more time with my boy when I’m not travelling away with the national team is a good thing,’ he says.

However, Silva is less certain that he will follow through on a plan to quit City when his contract runs out in 2020 after a decade at the Etihad.

It has always been his intention to finish his career with Las Palmas, but could that be postponed?

‘I don’t know. Maybe,’ he says with a smile.

‘In theory, that’s my time – a year-and-a-half I’ve got left to play (at City). But, in football, things change around don’t they? You never know.

‘All I’m going to do is concentrate on enjoying every minute between now and then. At that time, I’ll see what I think.’

City and their supporters will certainly hope the 5ft 7in playmaker has a change of heart.

Silva will go down as one of the greatest players in the club’s history. A truly gifted footballer who elevates those around him; one who has taken his own game to a new level since Guardiola gave him a more central role.

‘He’s put me in a position where you can see my game more,’ says Silva. ‘I have more contact with the ball, more touches.

‘The fact I’m now in the centre of the field gives me much more opportunity to express myself.’

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is his ability to see the picture faster than those around him.

‘It’s a key part of my game,’ he says. ‘I mean, look at me, my size. In this physical Premier League, it would be tough for me otherwise.

‘The fact I can see things quickly and adapt to the needs of a particular situation, yeah, that helps.’

Each time City sign a new star – Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva – the little Spaniard just seems to raise his game again.

‘It’s not the competition of others, it’s the competition I set myself,’ says Silva. ‘I set myself stiff targets.

‘I know what’s required to do well in this league and it’s about improving year on year. I’m hard on myself in that regard.’

Silva turns 33 in January and is one of the senior players at City now; someone who has accrued a hat-trick of Premier League titles, the FA Cup and three League Cups since signing from Valencia for £24million in 2010.

He has been at the forefront of City’s success in usurping Manchester United, which brings us back to Sunday’s derby at the Etihad.

‘It has changed,’ he says. ‘When I first got here, there was that huge respect for Manchester United, and now I think it is a little bit more the other way around.

‘It’s been nice to be involved in these years where the balance in power has shifted.

‘It’s nice to feel that I’ve been involved in that in some part, and you have something there as a legacy.’