Andy Murray was the first male Briton to lift the Wimbledon singles championship since 1936. On that day, Barcelona announced the sale of David Villa to Atletico Madrid for just 5.1 million Euros, an eighth of the massive 40 million fee they forked out to Valencia in 2010.
While a vast majority of the sporting world took to fervent discussions over Murray’s win over Novak Djokovic, Villa’s move to the Spanish capital was nearly as surprising (if not more) that what had transpired in England.
Moving to Barcelona from Valencia seemed to be the natural order of progression for Villa, who during his time at the Camp Nou would eclipse Raul Gonzalez’s record as top scorer of Spain’s national team, an occasion, surely as joyous as it is pure and unadulterated and simple.
In moving to Barcelona, the striker had fulfilled a childhood dream of his, following in the footsteps of Luis Enrique and Quini, who had risen from obscurity at Sporting Gijon to stardom at Barcelona.
But despite winning a deserving plethora of trophies that a player of El Guaje’s ilk surely deserves, was he truly happy in Catalonia?
Was he able to recapture the simple pleasures one finds when he scores a goal of pure class as often as he would have liked?
David Villa never quite fit in at Barcelona. Well, how could he, if he was seldom played in the right position?
It has been some time since Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy produced a striker and judging by the presence of one Lionel Andres Messi, it will be some time before anyone is able to occupy that centre-forward role.
David Villa primarily featured on Barcelona’s left wing, much like Thierry Henry was before him. He was, essentially, despite all the talents he possessed, another cog in the Barcelona machine that had its game centred around Messi.
Which meant that the one player at Barcelona who could actually sniff a goal out of nothing was being wasted in a position he was not accustomed to. Villa, truth be told, was the only player at Barcelona blessed with a striker’s instinct and anticipation: skills that you can develop on a training ground but while not thrive in any other sort of player except one who is naturally accustomed to leading the line.
One wonders now as one does when Villa was conspicuously absent from a majority of Spain’s starting line-ups at the recently concluded Confederations Cup.
The striker started only one game in the competition (against Tahiti) and scored three goals. Substitute appearances against Nigeria and Brazil completed his showing in Brazil but would Vicente Del Bosque have started him more regularly at the tournament if he had been playing up front for Barcelona?
Del Bosque recently praised Villa’s courage in moving to Atletico Madrid, taking the time to complement his decision-making, his ability to know precisely when to pass or shoot and his anticipatory instinct of turning up in the right place at the right time.
For these are all qualities that earmark Villa as an expert marksman. Qualities that he will be counting on when Spain head to Brazil in an attempt to become only the second team to defend the World Cup.
Since taking charge of Spain after the departure of Luis Aragones in 2008, Del Bosque has always entrusted Villa and Fernando Torres with the task of playing up front for Spain. The two of them – representing the highly successful little and large striking combination – perform excellently in tandem, with Torres ploughing a furrow forward while Villa is afforded a floating role to draw out defenders and get into threatening positions.
Had he felt the need to play Villa at the Confederations Cup, he would have surely done so because he has the utmost confidence in his team but it is clear that Villa, Torres or the two of them will be called upon to lead La Furia Roja next year, given the trust that Del Bosque has shown in them in the past.
Trust that was strangely lacking at Barcelona.
For years to come, many will pick apart and dissect Barcelona’s 4-0 humbling at the Allianz Arena in the Champions League semi-finals by Bayern Munich.
Despite Lionel Messi not being at the peak of his powers because he was carrying an injury, Tito Vilanova decided to keep Villa on the bench, only bringing him on with seven minutes left on the clock, but which time the game had long been put to bed and the tie all but decided. Did Vilanova not trust him when his team primary source of goals was not performing at his optimum best?
Villa of course played all 90 minutes up front in the return fixture, but by then, there was little he could do to influence proceedings. Indeed, Barcelona’s body language in that game suggested that they felt that that game had been lost even before it had begun.
At Atletico, there will be little doubt as to who will play up front. Villa’s move to the Vicente Calderon is one that is most agreeable for both parties. The 31-year-old has been brought in as a replacement for Radamel Falcao and will once again be able to showcase the deadly goal scoring talents that persuaded Barcelona to buy him in the first place.
Villa had to sacrifice much positionally when he moved to Barcelona and he is about to re-inherit what is rightfully his.
There are those who might suggest that Atletico is too far a step down for the striker, but that is far from the truth. The Mattress Makers will be playing in Europe next season and with the money they have received from the sale of Falcao, which will be substantial despite a lot of it going to a third party, they will surely be reinforcing their squad before the next season begins.
There is much talent already present in Villa’s new club in the form of Arda Turan, Cristian Rodriguez, Raul Garcia, Adrian Lopez, Diego Godin, Filipe Luis, Tiago Mendes and Emiliano Insua and Los Rojiblancos have already drafted in several new players.
Winger Pizzi, midfielder Ruben Micael and experienced defender Martin Demichelis are some of the new arrivals in the Spanish capital and will surely help in Atletico building on a very successful season that saw them win the Copa del Rey in the backyard of their bitter rivals Real Madrid.
Villa is about to rediscover the basic joys one receives when playing at the top of one’s game. He has said that one of the reasons he moved to Atletico was because of the presence of Diego Simeone, the man who has transformed Real Madrid’s rivals from relegation battlers to a Champions League club and with an on-song Villa in a red and white striped shirt, will ensure that his purchase has been a very sound investment indeed.
David Villa’s club record of 282 goals in 571 games (or a goal every two games) is a testament to his prowess and someone with the excellent finishing ability that he possesses is surely going to be very happy at Atletico because he will be doing there what he does best.
Scoring goals for fun: an event Villa is looking forward to with great excitement.