NEW YORK – David Villa has won a World Cup. He has captured a UEFA Champions League crown. He has lifted the FIFA Club World Cup trophy. His career is littered with achievements, both personal and collective, and Tuesday marked another special one for the star striker.
Villa was named the winner of the 2016 Landon Donovan MLS MVP award on Tuesday morning, claiming the individual honor after putting together a tremendous campaign this year that saw him score 23 goals and assist on four more while leading New York City FC to a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference and the second-year side's first postseason berth.
The 35-year-old Spaniard beat out fellow MVP finalists Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan, both of the rival New York Red Bulls, after winning the league’s club vote, player vote, and finishing in a tie with Wright-Phillips and fourth-placed Sebastian Giovinco for first in the media vote.
For Villa, the collective nod was a special honor that ranks among his top moments as a professional.
“It means a lot," he said to the group of assembled media after a formal presentation with MLS commissioner Don Garber. “It’s the example I want to show to the people in America, in MLS, day by day. This award is a lot to me because the vote for this award is from everybody working in MLS, like the community of the players, like the community of the coaches, and the community of the journalists.
“To be a winner of all the voting when you see the MLS with the big players, means a lot to me. It’s one of the best days of my career.”
Villa’s words were not just lip service either. He was genuinely happy on Tuesday morning as he was surrounded by some of his NYCFC coaches, teammates, immediate family, and friends. He gave eloquent speeches, both in English and Spanish, about what winning the MVP award meant to him.
Villa was visibly joyful as he posed for photos with his family and friends, and also when he got a surprise from the league via a video that contained congratulatory messages from former European-based teammates like Gerard Pique and Xavi.
“I felt pride watching that,” he said in Spanish. “The most important thing for any professional, but especially for a soccer player, is the recognition of the people. That video had a lot of teammates that I’ve shared a lot of moments over many years, and for all of them to still have that affection for me is important for me.
“In a few years when I retire, I hope everyone remembers me as a great professional, a great friend, a great teammate.”
When exactly Villa will hang up his cleats is still unknown. The Designated Player is still hungry to repay the faith that NYCFC showed in him by making him their first signing back in 2014, and this season clearly demonstrated that he still has plenty left in the tank.
“David didn’t miss any training during the season,” said NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira. “He’s always there, training hard, working hard, talking to players. When we’re talking about David, we’re talking about somebody who loves the game, somebody who is humble, somebody who is really positive and that’s why he’s so successful.”