MANCHESTER (AFP) - David Silva is in line to make the 400th appearance of his extraordinary Manchester City career with manager Pep Guardiola admitting he never expected his star playmaker to survive in the English game.
The 33-year-old will reach the landmark should he play in City's visit to Bournemouth on Sunday (Aug 25) at the start of what will be his last season in the Premier League.
Silva will leave City with an array of honours which already includes four league titles, four League Cups and two FA Cups.
The Spaniard is guaranteed a permanent place in the club's folklore, but Guardiola admitted he could not have foreseen such a career when Silva left Valencia for the Etihad in 2010 for what now seems a bargain £24 million (S$40.7 million) move.
"You can play a good season but he's done it for 10 seasons, it is almost incredible. Big congratulations. For all the City fans - me included - it is a privilege," said Guardiola.
"Hopefully in his last season, he can be here and be who he is, play the way he wants to play and we will try to make him happy."
Guardiola was a big admirer of Silva during his time in Spain, but admitted that even he has been surprised by his success in England.
"He's one of the most intelligent players I've ever seen," he said.
"Moving in these small spaces he's really good, one of the best.
"But he's tiny, a little player, not a box-to-box player and my image of England from the outside, I thought 'maybe he's going to suffer'. Happily, I was wrong.
"That was my first impression. But obviously from the beginning, it is not just a fact that David played well this season or two seasons ago. He's played well with all the managers, Roberto (Mancini), Manuel (Pellegrini) and with us.
"He's a huge competitor. How he reacts to the bad moments. His specific qualities help him survive in the Premier League. He should be so proud."
Silva was also selected to succeed Vincent Kompany as City's captain this season, a decision taken collectively by the first team squad.
And while Guardiola acknowledged he is a very different personality to the more vocal, charismatic Kompany, the Catalan approved of the decision.
"He's a nice guy, a normal guy," said Guardiola. "He has a lot of experience, knows exactly what the team needs, what he has to do.
"Every captain is different, has a different personality. But I'm not going to say anything about it, he has to do what he believes. The players chose him, I'm not involved."