TRANSFER TRACKER STATUS: Out of contract
Villa, who turns 37 next week, will leave the team at the end of his contract on December 31, 2018. He scored 77 goals and added 26 assists in 117 regular season appearances with NYCFC. His 77 goals in the timeframe are more than anyone in MLS except Bradley Wright-Phillips.
“I can only say thank you, thank you to everybody. First, to City Football Group that gave me the opportunity to come here. To NYCFC and MLS for accepting me. To everybody from the bottom to the top in the club who helped me day-by-day," Villa said in a statement.
“Thank you to the people in the offices, the people working with the team and the coaches and staff. Thank you to my teammates – without them it would have been impossible to be successful. Thank you to all the people working in the media that always gave me the respect and the love.
“Obviously, our fans, I remember the first day I showed the jersey and the supporters were there. I would have liked to give the supporters the MLS Cup, but I don’t have any doubts that in the next years the club will get it for sure.
My experience here was amazing. It gave me everything as a soccer player, as a person, and as a family man. I’ll always remember this experience with love. My heart is here and I’m an NYCFC supporter forever.”
NYCFC's all-time leading goalscorer, Villa was the club's first signing and scored their first playoff goal. He was an MLS All-Star each of his first three seasons and won the 2016 Landon Donovan MLS MVP after scoring 23 goals. Villa will announce the next stop in his career in the coming days.
This season, Villa battled injuries for the first time in his four-year stay in MLS but was as productive as ever. He scored 14 goals in 23 games as NYCFC finished third in the Eastern Conference. He added a goal in their 3-1 Knockout Round victory over the Philadelphia Union.
Villa's career begun in Spain when he made his professional debut for Sporting Gijon after Real Oviedo declared he was too short. After a season with the 'B' team, Villa was promoted to their first team in the Spanish second division. He was sold to Real Zaragoza in 2003, embarking on more than a decade in La Liga. After 39 goals across all competitions in two seasons with Zaragoza, Villa was bought by Valencia. He spent five seasons with the club, scoring 129 goals in 225 appearances. Then, Barcelona came calling.
“David has been an incredible ambassador and Captain to this club since the moment we signed him. His professionalism and leadership helped us through the challenges that a new team faces when they come into the league. He’s represented New York City FC tremendously both on and off the pitch and has been a real leader for this football club.
“I truly believe that David will be remembered as one of the best players to ever play in MLS," sporting director Claudio Reyna said. "He will forever be a legend amongst all of our wonderful supporters and everyone here at NYCFC wishes David nothing but the best in the remainder of his career. He will always be a part of NYCFC.”
In three hugely successful seasons with Barcelona, Villa scored 48 goals while winning two league titles, a Copa del Rey triumph as well as the Champions League. He spent one season with Atletico Madrid thereafter, winning the league, before moving to NYCFC. He spent four games at Melbourne City awaiting the start of the MLS season.
All the while, Villa became the all-time leading scorer for the Spanish national team with 59 in 98 appearances. He was part of teams labeled some of the best in world history that won the 2008 European Championship and 2010 World Cup.
Villa elaborated on his decision, and why "[his] mind and body need a new challenge" in a video interview hosted by his social media platform, Designated Player: