#7: David Silva, SPA

It’s taken a long time for David Silva, 26, to get his due after coming through at Valencia, where his father was responsible for stadium security. A crafty playmaker or left winger who started for Spain when it won Euro 2008 but receded on to the bench for the 2010 World Cup, has perhaps grown into Spain’s finest dribbler. Highly creative and incredibly hard to dislodge from the ball, Silva’s runs and penetrating passes and through balls have been a scourge to English defenses all year.

In his second year with Manchester City, Silva’s game has continued to mature and he is finally being recognized as one of the world’s premier attacking midfielders, scooping up more than a dozen assists in a small sampling of the evidence of the services he supplies for City’s grateful corps of strikers. And whereas a slew of his club teammates have gotten themselves embroiled in one quagmire or scandal after another, Silva is as much the model citizen as he is the model midfielder.

Silva has long stood in the shadow of fellow Spanish attacking midfield luminaries like Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas. But, to Silva’s immense credit, it’s come time to ask if he hasn’t eclipsed the Barcelona men.

Expert's take: "For the first half of the season he was arguably the best player in the Premier League. He's creative and tricky, with the ability to conjure up something out of nothing. When the ball at his feet, you know anything can happen. -- Gabriele Marcotti

Stats That Matter:

• 15 goals with the national team, including four in the past four games

• Played in five games at Euro 2008 and scored a goal against Russia

• Led Premier League with 851 passes completed into final third in 2011-12

• Third on Man City and 12th in 2011-12 Premier League with 1,822 passes completed

• Manchester City bought him from Valencia for $37.3 million in 2010

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