BRONX, N.Y. – David Villa would have had no shortage of suitors in Europe.
But the Spanish international didn’t want to go to a well-established club there. He wanted a fresh start and he found one at New York City FC.
“I’ve done a lot in Europe already, a very good career; an opportunity to start from zero, to start over again is something I thought was exciting,” Villa said through an interpreter after a clinic with youth players from South Bronx United on Thursday at Macombs Dam Park, directly across the street from Yankee Stadium.
After leading Atlético Madrid to their first league title since 1996, scoring 13 goals in 36 appearances, Villa made a splash in June when it was announced he would join New York City FC, who will begin their inaugural season in Major League Soccer in March of 2015.
He left for Brazil shortly thereafter to compete in the FIFA World Cup. After announcing he would be retiring from international soccer following the competition, Villa scored his 59th career goal in a 3-0 win over Australia.
Following a well-earned break, Villa arrived in New York and took in the international friendly between Manchester City and Liverpool on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.
On Thursday, he made his first public comments about joining NYCFC following the soccer clinic. From the second he stepped on the turf Thursday, Villa was mobbed by the youth players who, to that point, have only watched him on television.
“I’ve been a child and I know what it’s like and how important it is to give back to the kids at the beginning, teach them the right way to play,” Villa said.
In a few months, those same kids will be able to watch Villa, Frank Lampard and the other NYCFC players compete during the 2015 MLS season. It’s a challenge Villa has embraced since Claudio Reyna, the club’s director of football operations, first approached him.
“The thing that attracted me to the project was being one of the first players, being part of a founding team from the beginning,” Villa said. “That was what drew me here.”
Before his first MLS game, though, Villa said he is looking forward to watching the league this summer and taking in some matches first-hand, watching future rivals up close.
“I have a window now where I’ll be able to check out some of them,” Villa said.
As a soccer fanatic with diverse tastes, Villa said he didn’t need to consult with anyone who has played in MLS before signing with NYCFC.
“Besides just being a player, I’m also a fan. I follow a lot of different leagues – MLS, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, England, France, Russia,” Villa said. “I didn’t have to talk to anybody. I just made the decision on my own.”
In October, Villa is off to Australia to compete for Melbourne City FC, also owned by Manchester City, on loan before joining NYCFC for preseason in January.
“There’s a lot of time off,” Villa said. “No better way to keep the rust off than actually stay active.”
Then it’s time to start making his name in the United States.
“I want to leave a winning legacy,” Villa said, “one of hard work and dedication so people remember the name David Villa.”