They’ve been locked together near the top of the Premier League table all season, and ahead of their second Etihad Stadium meeting inside two weeks on Saturday, Manchester City and Chelsea have an awful lot more than that in common.
They both play in blue, they are both managed by former Real Madrid bosses, but of course the key similarity is that they both have vast amounts of money with which they can afford to buy the world’s best players.
Sergio Aguero, Oscar, Yaya Toure. You could easily name plenty more, and it wouldn’t be long before that list brought you to both David Silva and Eden Hazard.
Both have lit up this and other Premier League seasons, but if you have just one in your team then who would it be?
The case for Silva has history on its side.
Just a day under being exactly five years older than Hazard at 28, Silva’s trophy cabinet contains medals from both the 2008 and 2012 European Championships and the 2010 World Cup. In a “so what have you won?” conversation he’s got some pretty impressive ammo to bring to the table.
A key part of the Spain team that won all those successes and accolades, Silva―who scored an unlikely header to open the scoring in the Euro 2012 final―is one of the poster boys of the “tiki taka” generation. Passing, movement and elegance are key, and he possesses the ability to excel at all three.
Although not a prolific goalscorer regardless of that header against Italy in Kiev, his role is often to play the final, decisive pass to a teammate―usually Aguero when he’s playing for City―and to always be available to both give and receive the ball. He isn’t the most explosive, but then that’s because he’s not supposed to be.
In Hazard we have a player who, although possessing a tremendous amount of skill, could be seen as the complete opposite to Silva.
The Belgian’s game is about power. He gets the ball and hares off towards goal as if his life and the lives of his loved ones were dependent upon it.
His age and the only recent resurgence of the Belgium team means that he hasn’t made the same level of impact as Silva has on the global stage, but that could change with the World Cup in the summer, where Belgium might not be able to win the trophy, but they can at least put on a good show.
Hazard has been in sublime form for Chelsea this season, scoring 13 goals and having a hand in several more to make a strong challenge to the likes of Aguero and Luis Suarez for the player of the year awards.
What’s more, the age gap to Silva could demonstrate a changing of the guard in terms of the preferred tactics of the day, as the “tiki taka” style perhaps gives way to a more dynamic, maybe even Germanic style of play.
Plenty would currently note that Barcelona are not as effective as they used to be whilst they continue to employ the tactics we’ve seen from them in the past few years, whilst Spain’s big test arrives in the summer when there aren’t too many people willing to back them to win the World Cup.
Instead it is the Bayern Munichs, Borussia Dortmunds and Germanys of this world which have been attracting more praise recently, as teams packed full of fast, dynamic players prepared to press and punish have usually reaped the rewards.
You could say that Manchester City and Chelsea fit into the category of these sorts of teams too, and as such it becomes somewhat inevitable that Hazard would take on a more important role in his team than Silva does in his.
And so that’s why, if you had to pick one player over the other right now, you’d probably go the Belgian over the Spaniard.
Both will lock horns again in the FA Cup on Saturday though, and even if you can’t pick a winner of that one just yet it certainly promises to be fun finding out just who it’ll be.