Pep Guardiola did not expect David Silva to cut it in the Premier League when he joined Manchester City from Valencia in 2010.
The 33-year-old, who is in line to make his 400th City appearance on Sunday, has gone on to win four league titles, two FA Cups and four League Cup crowns in a glittering career in Manchester and has been given the honour of the captaincy in what will be his final season for the club.
It is fair to say the diminutive midfielder has defied the predictions of those who feared he was too small for English football, Guardiola included.
“He’s a tiny little player. My image of English football when I was outside, I thought, ‘Maybe he’s going to suffer’, but I was happily, happily wrong,” Guardiola said.
“To do 400 games means many years, many bad moments and many good moments and being there day-by-day, week-by-week and I admire that. You can make a good season, but he’s done it for almost 10.
“It’s incredible. For City fans, me included, it’s a privilege to see what he’s done at the club.”
Silva had to overcome his lack of size to succeed but did so through his guile and close control.
“He’s one of the most incredible, intelligent players,” Guardiola said. “Moving in these small spaces he’s really good. With space, everybody takes time and makes the right decision, but he’s really good in small spaces. He’s one of the best.
“He’s played well here with all the managers. Roberto (Mancini), Manuel (Pellegrini) and with us. After I spoke to the managers he had in Spain and I understood what has been realised here.
“People believe he has quality with the ball, but it’s more than that.
“It’s his character. 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.”
Guardiola gave nothing away in terms of whether Silva is likely to start on Sunday against Bournemouth, a team City have won all eight Premier League fixtures against by a combined margin of 25-3.
That statistic aside, Guardiola was full of praise for Eddie Howe’s side.
“We know each other quite well for the fact that it is the same managers from four years ago,” Guardiola said.
“They have the same points as us after two games and they won away (against Aston Villa) when it is difficult to go to a newly promoted team in the first game of the season.
“They are defending incredibly well, setting up deep with a 5-4-1 or a 5-3-2, and they attack really well in the channels and from set-pieces, so it is always tough.”
Guardiola said the game would come too soon for injured England defender John Stones, but Oleksandr Zinchenko is fit following a cramp. Benjamin Mendy is training but not yet fit to feature, although new signing Joao Cancelo is an option at left-back.
Following their success in the Community Shield and some impressive displays already, Guardiola said the only disappointment of the season so far was the fact his side do not have six points, having seen a late winner against Tottenham last weekend ruled out by VAR for a handball by Aymeric Laporte.
City have been at the centre of several high-profile VAR decisions already following their incident-packed 5-0 win at West Ham on the opening weekend, but Guardiola remains a firm fan of the technology.
“The reason for (VAR) is to bring more justice, to be more fair and that is the only reason I like VAR,” Guardiola said.
“I think in the end it’s going to happen, but it’s the first season and it’s normal what has happened.
“In the end it will be right. From the beginning I supported this technology.”