MIAMI — If fans were impressed with the season that forward David Villa put together for FC Barcelona in his first year with the club, this upcoming campaign might even be more promising for the 29-year-old Spanish international.
Why? Last summer he didn’t enjoy much of a preseason and he says he felt it despite scoring 23 goals across all competitions.
“The final stretch of last season was a bit tough because we were coming off a tough season that began after a long World Cup,” Villa said during Monday’s press conference at the team hotel. “But I tried to give 100 percent and help my team in other ways. In the end, we’re happy for the success we achieved.
“This year we have a preseason and an important body of work. For me, I’m taking things day by day ahead of the season with the knowledge that all the work we do here and the physical form we obtain can help us get to the end of the season in good conditions.”
Villa was the top scorer at the World Cup in South Africa, leading Spain to their first-ever World Cup title. He followed that up by helping Barcelona obtain the La Liga title and the UEFA Champions League trophy, scoring the third and final goal that put the match away in the final vs. Manchester United.
Not every new player has succeeded in making the seamless transition to the very specialized style of play that Barcelona practices. Villa fit right in.
“I knew it was going to be tough,” he said. “It’s not easy to play in the style that Barcelona plays. Few teams try it and even fewer succeed. With the confidence of the club, the manager, the players and confidence in myself I was able to get into the system and a year later I think have achieved it. But I want to keep working to get better every day.
“Last season was very good both individually and collectively. On an individual level I was able to play many minutes and many games and be part of many triumphs at the club. Also, I had the luck during the whole year of not suffering one injury which is a great thing. … The season went really well. Hopefully this can be as good if not better.”
This year will feature some more competition for the three forward spots that Barcelona employ in their 4-3-3 formation. Villa, Lionel Messi, Pedro Rodríguez and Ibrahim Afellay will be joined by Chilean superstar Alexis Sánchez, who represents the club’s biggest signing of the offseason. The 22-year-old scored 12 goals for Udinese, leading the club to qualify for the UEFA Champions League with a fourth-place finish in the recently concluded Italian Serie A season.
Barcelona manager Josep “Pep” Guardiola on Monday praised Sánchez’s ability to play in any of the three positions up top although he’ll feature mainly at the left or right wings. Villa similarly prefers to start his attacks from the wings but has also played as the central player, including last Saturday against Manchester United.
“I’m happy to be here another year and happy to compete,” Villa said. “It’s normal. We’re at Barça and there is competition. We’re on one of the best teams in the world if not the best and it’s never easy. You have to fight to achieve things. We had it [competition] last year and we have it this year and we’ll always have it. We’re playing at Barça.
“Competition, hard work and being at 100 percent and with the confidence of having a good year individually and as a collective. Now in a little bit [in August] we have two titles witin reach and we’ll be trying to win them.”