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Silvestre in 2015
|Full name||Mikaël Samy Silvestre|
|Date of birth||9 August 1977|
|Place of birth||Chambray-lès-Tours, France|
|Height||6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 3 January 2015.
He began his career in France at Rennes in 1996 and went on to spend a season with Italian club Inter Milan in 1998 before joining Manchester United in 1999. At Old Trafford, he won honours including five Premier League titles and the UEFA Champions League, making 361 appearances in all competitions, then joined Arsenal in 2008. Two seasons later he joined German side Werder Bremen, and spent time at the Portland Timbers in Major League Soccer before signing for Chennaiyin in 2014, where he retired at the end of the season.
Silvestre has also played for the French national team, earning 40 caps between 2001 and 2006. He represented France at two FIFA World Cups (2002 and 2006, winning a runers-up medal in the latter edition of the tournament), UEFA Euro 2004, and two conquests of the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2001 and 2003.
Born in Chambray-lès-Tours, Silvestre started playing football with the Rennes Football Academy in Brittany and began his league career with the French club in the 1995–96 season. His time at the club helped build his reputation, and in the 1997–98 season was signed by Internazionale. He made 31 appearances for Internazionale in Serie A, Coppa Italia and in the UEFA Champions League.
Despite an approach from Liverpool manager Gérard Houllier, Silvestre signed for Manchester United for £4 million on 10 September 1999, and made his debut against Liverpool at Anfield the next day. In his first season at Manchester United he replaced an injured Ronny Johnsen in the centre of defence with Jaap Stam; By the 2001–02 season, Silvestre had established himself in defence ahead of the veteran Denis Irwin, and was proving to be adept both in defence and in getting forward at left back. He set up numerous goals for Ruud van Nistelrooy, notably away to Deportivo de La Coruña in a 2–0 towards the end of the season.
During the next season he carried on initially where he left off at the left of Manchester United's back four, but following injury to Rio Ferdinand and the poor performance of an aging Laurent Blanc, he was switched to his favoured position of central defence. This first happened at half-time in the UEFA Champions League match away in Basel on 26 November 2002 when the team were 1–0 down and struggling with a young John O'Shea looking shaky at the heart of the defence. Silvestre and O'Shea were switched for the second half and the team immediately looked more solid defensively. From this point Silvestre forged a successful partnership mid-season with Wes Brown at the heart of the defence until Ferdinand's return, looking calm and assured. Using his pace to good effect, while continuing to provide goals with his accurate diagonal balls.
The beginning of the 2003–04 season saw Silvestre paired with Ferdinand in the centre of the team's defence. However, this was cut short following Ferdinand's eight-month ban for missing a drug test. In the latter half of this season when being paired with an unfit Wes Brown, Manchester United's defence proved to be rather less secure and both Brown and Silvestre were at fault for numerous goals and despite winning the FA Cup with a 3–0 victory over Millwall, this uncertainty at the heart of the defence was to continue into the start of the 2004–05 season.
Competition for places grew significantly during the January transfer window in 2006 with the signings of Nemanja Vidić and Patrice Evra. Although both struggled to adapt initially, both have since gone on to establish themselves as firm fan favourites and key members of the Manchester United squad. Following the partnership of Vidić and Ferdinand at the heart of the defence, and Evra's holding of the left-back position, Silvestre found it more difficult to secure a place in the Manchester United starting line-up. However, his form improved toward the end of the season. He admitted that he was given the option to leave during the January transfer window during 2006, with an opportunity to join former Liverpool manager Gérard Houllier at Lyon. He did however decide to stay and fight for his place at United.
On 11 August 2006, his loyalty to the club was rewarded with a new contract extending his stay at the club until at least 2009. Alex Ferguson commented: "Mikael has been an important member of the squad for seven years now. His experience at the Club will help the younger players as they develop and he has a central role to play in the first team."
He started the 2006–07 season against Watford, scoring a goal, his first away goal for United, to give United the lead. He was starting to reassert himself in the left-back role when he broke a metatarsal in a 1–0 defeat to Arsenal. After recovering and playing several games, he dislocated his shoulder in a Champions League win against Lille OSC, meaning he was unable to play for the rest of the season. He did however win his fourth Premier League winner's medal that season as United won the league for the first time since 2003.
Silvestre revealed that in the summer of 2007 he turned down the opportunity to sign for Newcastle United, because he refused to play in the same side as Joey Barton (who attacked Silvestre's close friend Ousmane Dabo). With Gabriel Heinze moving to Real Madrid, Silvestre was set to battle Evra for the starting left-back spot in the first eleven at Manchester United in the 2007–08 season. On 15 September, however, Silvestre was stretchered off with knee ligament damage that would rule him out for the rest of the season. On 24 September, Ferguson revealed that: "I'm sure Mikael will be back in March." He also said, "we had him operated on in France last week and it all went well. It was pleasing to see there was no further damage other than the cruciate ligament. That's a big bonus because sometimes there can be cartilage problems that also come along."
A transfer to Bordeaux was mooted in the summer of 2008. However, it is believed that Silvestre turned the transfer down to see out the remaining year of his contract, and potentially receive a testimonial match at the end of the 2008–09 season. He received an offer to join Manchester City from manager Mark Hughes and was set to join them; however, during the medical examination, Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger called to offer Silvestre a transfer to his club. Given the strong French presence at Arsenal, the rivalry between Manchester United and Manchester City, and the fact that Manchester City were not yet a force in English football, Silvestre opted to join the London club.
The transfer to Arsenal was completed for an undisclosed fee on 20 August 2008, with Silvestre signing a two-year contract. The transfer made Silvestre the first player to transfer directly between Manchester United and Arsenal since Viv Anderson (who moved in the opposite direction) in 1987, and the first player to move from United to Arsenal since Brian Kidd in 1974. He was given the number 18 shirt, last worn by Pascal Cygan.
Silvestre made his debut for the club in a 3–1 victory over Everton on 18 October 2008, his 250th game in English football. In his first Champions League game for Arsenal, against Turkish side Fenerbahçe, he scored an own goal as Arsenal won 5–2. His first Premiership goal for Arsenal came against Tottenham Hotspur on 29 October 2008. On 8 November 2008, Silvestre played his first game against former side Manchester United, in a fixture that Arsenal eventually won 2–1.
After the 2009–10 season, Silvestre was released by Arsenal and became a free agent. He reportedly had offers from Fulham and Kayserispor, but instead signed for Werder Bremen and said "This is a great new adventure for me, there were other offers, but Thomas Schaaf and Klaus Allofs fascinated me." He managed to score his first goal for Bremen, in a magnificent shot which Bremen won against Bundesliga Champions Borussia Dortmund 2–0. By the end of the season, he made 26 league appearances, scoring a single league goal. He was released at the end of the 2011–12 season. He was offered a trial at English club West Ham United in September 2012. In October 2012, Silvestre began training with his former club, Manchester United, in order to maintain his fitness in the hope of finding a new club. Since then, he received an offer from Indian club Dodsal F.C., with a view to joining them in time for their new season in January 2013.
Silvestre spent time on trial with MLS side Portland Timbers ahead of the 2013 MLS campaign, and then moved to trial with fellow Cascadia region MLS side Seattle Sounders FC. The Timbers obtained Silvestre's MLS discovery rights from the Sounders in exchange for a first-round pick in the 2014 MLS Supplemental Draft and a conditional 2015 draft pick. On 19 February 2013 it was announced that Silvestre had signed a two-year deal with Portland.
On 2 May 2013 Silvestre tore his left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in a game against the New England Revolution. He missed the rest of the season. Silvestre subsequently had surgery to repair the damage. Despite his injury, Silvestre remained a vocal and engaged member of the team off the field and on social media.
Silvestre was released by Portland on 28 January 2014.
On 20 September 2014, Silvestre joined newly formed Indian Super League side Chennaiyin for four months and his signing was confirmed through Prashant Agarwal CEO of Kshatriya Sports, who confirmed that Silvestre signed the contract for the season for more than $500,000 (USD). He started in their first match on 15 October 2014, a 2–1 victory at FC Goa.
At the end of the season, after playing 14 games for Chennaiyin, Silvestre announced that would be exploring options to extend his playing career in the Middle-East and if not, he would continue working on his coaching badges, meaning that his time at Chennaiyin was over.
Silvestre was previously a member of French junior team at the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship. He earned his first senior cap for France on 27 February 2001 in a friendly against Germany that ended in a 1–0 win. He won the Confederations Cup both in 2001 and 2003 with France.
Silvestre also played one game in the French squad that made the final of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, but has not played since the tournament. He was recalled by Raymond Domenech for the 19 November 2008 friendly against Uruguay, but was an unused substitute. Raymond Domenech said he was in contention for a place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but he did not get a place. Silvestre was in the squad for a friendly against Romania in 2011, but was an unused substitute.
- Manchester United
- Premier League (5): 1999–2000, 2000–01, 2002–03, 2006–07, 2007–08
- FA Cup (1): 2003–04
- Football League Cup (1): 2005–06
- FA Community Shield (2): 2003, 2007
- UEFA Champions League (1): 2007–08
- Intercontinental Cup (1): 1999
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- Includes other competitive competitions, including the FA Community Shield, UEFA Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup, FIFA Club World Cup
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