x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Denis Suarez is the magician's apprentice

The Spanish midfielder, 18, is being compared to senior compatriot David Silva and Manchester City hope can weave similar magic, writes Richard Jolly .

Manchester City’s Denis Suarez, left, has started two games so far this season, both in the Capital One Cup.
Manchester City’s Denis Suarez, left, has started two games so far this season, both in the Capital One Cup.

The style of play is eerily similar, the nationality the same. Even the initials are identical. The comparisons are inevitable, as Denis Suarez knows, with the man known to Manchester City supporters as "Merlin the Magician".

"I am a similar sort of player to David Silva in that I like to see the ball a lot and enjoy making the final pass," said the young Spaniard. "If I had to describe my style of play to somebody who hadn't seen me play, I'd tell them I was a central midfielder who likes to get the ball as much as possible and make the team tick."

Suarez, 18, has made only two first-team appearances, both in the League Cup, but if everything goes to plan for City, he will prove to be the heir of Merlin.

At the moment, the teenager is the sorcerer's apprentice, receiving an education from the best. "He's the one I probably watch more closely than anyone else in training," Suarez said. "We have a good relationship and he gives me advice and helps me a lot so he's a bit like a big brother."

Or, given Silva's diminutive stature, a small brother. The playmaker, the creator of more goals than anyone else in the Premier League last season, is a reason why a club with Emirati owners and an Italian manager has a distinct Spanish influence. "I think City are the closest thing to a Spanish team in the Premier League because of our style of play," Suarez said. "It is all about passing, movement and the way we approach matches."

Quintessentially Spanish in his style of play, the teenager himself is almost Portuguese in one respect. He was born in Salceda de Caselas, just north of the Portuguese border and grew up in Galicia, the north-west province of Spain.After he was on the books of a local club, Porrino Industrial, it was a natural move to join one of the regional powers.

"Celta Vigo are a club who have developed a lot of good, young talent in recent years," Suarez said. "They tend to sell their upcoming players for financial reasons but they have a very good coaching set up. They give you the ball from a young age and have a particular passing style which we all learn. It is the same for the national team at various age levels: we have a distinctive style of play that is taught to us and if I have a style similar to Silva, this is the main reason."

Success on the international stage is a shared characteristic of senior and junior sides. Stepping off the conveyor belt of Spanish talent, Suarez was part of the squad that won the European Under-19 championship in the summer. He scored in the 2-0 group stage win over Estonia and came on as a substitute in the final, when Greece were defeated.

By then, however, he had left his homeland. Suarez had made 15 appearances for Celta's B side before, in 2011, he was lured to Manchester. Initially spotted in an Under-17 tournament in Belgium, he cost an initial £850,000 (Dh5 million), which could rise to £2.75 million.

City faced plenty of competition for his signature. Barcelona were interested, and Suarez grew up a Barca fan, while his talent also brought him to the attention of Manchester United and Chelsea.

He debuted for City as a substitute in last season's Carling Cup, replacing Samir Nasri in a 5-2 win over Wolves. While it proved his only senior game of the campaign, Suarez nonetheless impressed enough to win the fans' award for the club's young player of the year.

A first senior start came last week, and in the Capital One Cup. Together with Abdul Razak, another member of City's Elite Development Squad, he began in the midfield trio in a 4-2 defeat to Aston Villa. It could prove a defeat with repercussions for the newcomers, whose best chance of first-team football in the short term may have gone with City's elimination.

But Suarez, who excelled in pre-season friendlies, has been encouraged by Roberto Mancini. "The boss told me I would be around the first team this season and I would get opportunities," he said. It is a reason why City rebuffed Feyenoord's attempts to take the Spaniard on loan.

A bright future is envisaged at the Etihad Stadium and if Suarez realises his potential, he could be paired with his role model. Silva has signed a new five-year contract. The Spanish influence at City may yet become more pronounced.


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