LANDOVER, Md. – If you only watched striker David Villa for the first time last season and knew nothing about him, it would be easy to think that he enjoyed the same famous upbringing at La Masía, FC Barcelona’s famous youth development program, as Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Lionel Messi and Pedro Rodríguez.
That’s because Villa fit right in with the fine-tuned, clockwork game of the blaugrana in his first campaign with the club.
After 10 seasons scoring goals for other Spanish clubs, most recently with Valencia, Villa signed on with Barcelona on May 21, 2010 as their major signing from last year. Although other “outsiders” have struggled in the past to adapt to the Barcelona system, Villa debuted to the tune of 23 goals in all competitions. The Spanish national team forward gives credit where credit is due.
"[Guardiola] is a coach for whom the titles speak for themselves,” Villa said after practice on Friday night at FedEx Field ahead of the World Football Challenge match-up against Manchester United. “I am delighted to work with him and hopefully I can be with him for many years.”
Of Villa's 23 strikes from last year, none may have been more valuable than Barcelona’s third against Manchester United in May’s UEFA Champions League final, which sealed the door shut on another European crown for the Spanish giants.
Nearly a year to the day that he was presented as the newest Barcelona star, Villa fulfilled all the promise of his $58 million transfer fee from Valencia by effortlessly netting a spectacular curling shot that found the corner. Although the strike was sublime, the pass that set up the goal was decisive – a product of the genius of Messi.
“With Messi we have the best player in the world and this ensures that the club and the team stand out more,” Villa said on Friday. “And we're lucky to have him.”
But there was no Messi on Friday, when FC Barcelona conducted their final practice session ahead of the UEFA Champions League grudge match against the Red Devils. While the Argentine attacker remained on vacation following his participation in the Copa America, more than 5,000 fans at the open training session at FedEx Field were star struck nonetheless. One fan’s banner read: “David Villa – I would be so honored if you can gift me your jersey.”
While Villa may heap praise on Messi, it’s FC Barcelona’s ability to continue to maneuver on the transfer market that ensures there is never a drop-off in their level of play and their rock star status worldwide never wanes. When they secured Villa’s transfer, they were signing a player who would go one to become the top scorer of the 2010 World Cup.
"Success comes from victories achieved over previous years,” Villa said. “I think that people and really everybody gets excited about Barça's soccer, whether it's in one competition or another. And the titles and the successes of recent years make the club what it is and that the players are admired wherever we go.”