[OP-ED]: Spanish soccer legend David Villa is back with the National Team
Spain’s manager Julen Lopetegui is famous for focusing in one game at the time. He does not like to think too much about the future, especially having a contest tomorrow in Madrid against Italy that will decide Europe’s World Cup qualifying Group G.
A draw would be more than enough for the Spaniards to clinch their bid for Russia 2018. But a loss would have dramatic results. Dropping to second place, Spain would need to play a tough second round to earn a World Cup wild card spot. It is true neither of the two countries can clinch mathematically their participation in Russia 2018, but their lead in the group is huge as each has won every game with the exception of the contest held 11 months ago in Turin between the two that ended with a 1-1 tie.
Lopetegui surprised everyone this week by calling 35-year old David Villa, the top scorer in the Spanish National Team history with 59 goals. Villa had not come to the National Squad since the third and last game Spain played in Brazil’s 2014 World Cup, in which he scored against Australia. The reason for the manager’s decision is very clear.
Lopetegui did not care about El Guaje (nicknamed given to Villa using the words kids are called in Asturias, the province where he was born) playing in the other side of the Atlantic Ocean or about his age. The manager believes no other striker is in better shape than Villa. The center forward from Asturias leads the MLS with 19 goals, having recorded 11 tallies in the last 11 games played by his club, New York City.
In fact, with Villa not being called to the Spanish National Team the squad has missed a true scorer. Spain tried Brazilian born Diego Costa and young Álvaro Morata, who will challenge Villa for a starting spot tomorrow, with average results. Villa’s spark for finding the goal is unique and his movements are also excellent to open spaces for midfielders that incorporate offensively.
Villa has always been synonymous of goal. Since exploding at home club Sporting Gijón at the beginning of the century, many teams tried signing him, but powerhouses stayed away because they thought he was too small (5-9) to enjoy success as a center forward. Finally Zaragoza claimed him and he led the squad to a shocking surprise in the King’s Cup Final, defeating a David Beckham-led Real Madrid, 3-2.
From Zaragoza, Villa went to Valencia, where he turned into one of the top scorers in the whole continent registering in five years more than 100 goals to become Spain’s starter at the striker position. He made history, guiding Spain to the European (2008) and the World (2010) Championships in consecutive tournaments. Villa topped his country with four goals in the Euro-Cup and five in the World Cup.
After this sensational run, Villa signed with Spanish giant club F.C. Barcelona, where he learnt to adapt, moving to the wing so Leo Messi would be in the center of the attack. The three forwards that Barça had that season with Spaniard Pedro alongside Villa and Messi became the best attacking triplet for the Catalan club, recording more success than the one achieved recently by Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez. This way FC Barcelona clearly dominated La Liga in 2011, defeating Real Madrid, 5-0, at Camp Nou with Villa scoring twice. Barça also marched in the Champions League, claiming the title with an easy 3-1 win over Manchester United with goals by Pedro, Messi and Villa.
A severe injury sustained in the Club’s World Championship made the Spanish forward miss more than half a year, including the 2012 Euro-Cup in which his country claimed another continental championship. Villa’s playing time was reduced in the following seasons and after three years in Barcelona, he signed with Atlético Madrid.
In only one campaign at the country’s capital, the striker had another solid performance and Atlético won La Liga and was only minutes away from conquering the European championship for the first time in a final game that was lost in extra time to Real Madrid.
It seemed Villa’s elite time had passed, so he signed with the New York City of the MLS in 2015. Since arriving at the Big Apple, the Spanish striker has marveled the fans thanks to his scoring skills, which have led him back to his country’s National Team. Who knows… maybe at the age of 36 Villa will play in his fourth World Cup in Russia 2018, trying to make larger his legend as the best Spanish scorer of all time.