BRONX, N.Y. — His first goal Sunday night put him in rarified air as just one of five current players in the world to score 400 goals for club and country.
But career goal No. 401 spoke more about David Villa as a player, about the desire of a 36-year-old former World Cup winner to continue to scratch and claw and battle like an 18-year-old looking to earn a first team spot.
After all, the New York City FC captain said, he knows no other way.
“Obviously when you’re [older] it’s difficult to continue fighting in the same way,” Villa said after his brace led NYCFC to a 3-1 win over FC Dallas Sunday at Yankee Stadium. “But I know perfectly what has made me successful in my career and its not another way than to give everything every day in training, give everything every day on the field. With the passing of time I need to take care of my body more. I did it in the training facility, before and after [training]. I need to continue.”
Villa knew this milestone was coming and it was a bit delayed in its arrival because a calf injury kept him sidelined for a month. Finally, from the penalty spot in the 36th minute, Villa joined Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic of the LA Galaxy as the only current players to score 400 goals for club and country.
And for NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira it was a goal that “reflects who he is as a person.”
Villa chased down a ball played into space by Anton Tinnerholm. He wasn’t the first to it, but he bumped Reto Ziegler on his touch, forcing the ball to bounce off the back of Matt Hedges, who Villa cut inside of before slipping past an onrushing Jimmy Maurer.
“He fights for it. The goal wasn’t there. He fights against two defenders and he didn’t give up,” Vieira said. “He was there and this is the moment where he showed his desire to score that goal and his competitiveness. I think he’s a fighter, especially when he’s inside the box. If you are maybe a different type of player you may give up because you may think you’re not going to have a chance, but David always thinks he has a chance to score the goals.”
It’s that attitude and competitiveness that Villa brings every day to training, a reason he’s a beacon to the younger players on the team on how to be a proper professional.
“David will be early at the training grounds, he will do his exercise before going to the field, he will finish training and do what he needs to do before going home,” Vieira said. “He’s eating well, he’s doing what he needs to prepare himself to be at his best on the weekend. I think if the majority of the players understand that, I will be really happy.”
And of all those goals, does Villa have a favorite?
“If you put together what is the most important, beautiful, the situation, the competition and everything I think the best was in the Champions League against Manchester United with Barcelona in the final,” Villa said. “I think this was the best, but I hope the best is coming and why not give silverware to NYCFC this year?”
RBNY v. NYCFC Saturday @ 2pm ET at Red Bull Arena – Limited tickets available for the NY Derby starting at $40