David Villa: Unveiled

Villa, Villa, Maravillarato. Wait, I think I did that wrong…

We have a new ‘7’ in our squad and he’s a pretty damned good ‘9’, too, when he needs to be. But who is he? Kevin already welcomed him, of course, and also put up pictures of his unveiling, but I’m here to discuss him a bit more in-depth. The sort of “Who/What is he?” thing that will get me into trouble later when I’m wrong about all of it. Or at least most of it. The optimistic ones of you out there are probably saying I’ll only be half wrong.

David Villa Sánchez was born on December 3, 1981 in Tuilla, Asturias, a tiny town near Langreo and Oviedo. He was supposedly passed over by Real Oviedo for being too short, but seeing as this is Spain, where the Little Ones have prospered for years, that strikes me as a rather apocryphal story. Still, for whatever reason, Villa ended up at Sporting Gijon, on the northern coast of Asturias. One of Villa’s childhood idols was Quini, so he was thrilled to bits to get to try and emulate him at Sporting.

When Real Zaragoza came calling just 2 years after his first team debut, offering first team and Primera playing time, he understandably jumped at the chance. Sporting had just ended up 10th in the Segunda, 19 points adrift of 2nd place (and thus promoted) Zaragoza and Villa was on the path to stardom. In his Sporting career he scored 38 league goals in 80 appearances and 40 in 85 appearances overall. He ended up playing only 2 seasons with Zaragoza, both with Gabi Milito incidentally, and scored 32 goals in 73 league appearances, 41 in 92 overall.

Valencia paid what seems like the ridiculously cheap sum of €12m for Villa in 2005 and he’s never looked back since, scoring 108 league goals in 164 appearances and 129 in 212 overall. In his 5 seasons with Los Che, he scored an average of 21.6 league goals in 32.8 appearances (25.8 in 42.4 overall) with his best season having been 2008-09 when he scored 28 league goals in 33 appearances (30 in 40 overall).

Barça attempted to prize him away from Valencia last summer, but were rebuffed by Valencia’s hardline stance of €50m or go home, which is, first off, extraordinarily fair of them. They wanted to keep Villa and knew that they couldn’t afford to lose both their star player and not receive a large enough sum to ensure that they could pay their bills. It was a gamble that seems to have paid off and they might yet survive this whole stadium and financial crisis debacle they’ve found themselves in thanks to having qualified for Champions League and now offloading Villa for €40m. It’s almost like having your cake and eating it too, but not quite as sweet as it would be if they could have hung on to Villa (and Silva seems to be on his way to Madrid as well, though it’s possible that they’ll be able to retain him thanks to the cash influx from the Villa sale).

As a member of Barcelona, Villa will be following in the footsteps of his idols again. Quini played for Barça between 1980 and 1984, racking up 51 goals in 99 appearances. Villa also stated that he idolizes Luis Enrique, the former Barça captain and current Barcelona Atletic manager, so he’s in a good spot at the moment. I wonder whose locker he’ll get. I’ve noticed in broadcasts where they show the locker room that the names of the players who had that locker are posted on them, which is so totally cool.

So now we have our ‘7’, capable of playing pure or support striker, of creating assists for teammates, and, of course, of slipping out to the wing to allow space in the middle for others. We’ll see how well he fits into the system, but I think it’ll be a solid match. I’m not thrilled about his arrival in the sense that it makes it harder for the other strikers to get serious playing time, but from a purely footballing perspective, it seems like a good fit.

The financial side of the deal is troubling, though, as we went head-over-heels into this deal, throwing cash about and acting like we got a bargain out it. I’m probably the only one out there who doesn’t think Dani Alves was worth €35m, but I’m also stuck in 1874 prices–dammit, why do Cokes cost more than a nickel?–so it’s probably just something I need to come to terms with. With this purchase, our last 2 seasons have seen purchases of €5m (Maxwell), €14m (Keirrison), €46m (Ibra), €25m (Chygrynsky), and now €40m for David Villa. That’s a total of €130m and while that still pales in comparison to Madrid’s summer totals of €252m (though they recouped €88.5m in sales and we only got €2m for Guddy’s sale plus whatever Victor Sanchez will bring us–I think €1m), it’s not exactly chump change, especially not if we add in more transfers later in the season, which I’m sure we will.

Beyond that, there are questions about debt, but that will have to wait for a different post thanks to Rosell’s current statements that we’re so in the red we’re on the verge of collapse (Oh no! Laporta did bad? You don’t say, guy who hates Laporta.) and me needing to wade through all of that to give you a clear picture of what’s really going on. Political shenanigans are, of course, just that. Forbes, at least, suggests we’re debt free, but I know that accountants are capable of fun “now you see it, now you don’t” tricks.

We’ll talk more about tactics later, of course, as the squad is finalized and we’ve all had a chance to think about these things a bit more. My apologies for being silent these days–I’ve been working on some stuff that you should see in the next couple of days, including some awesome information about the Kicking and Screening film festival and a longer post about the Barça philosophy that begins with a short discussion of Émile Durkheim. Yup, it’s true, I’m a nerd.

Welcome, Villa, and I hope that you’re happy here. Just one thing: when you say in your press conference that you’d die for Barcelona (“Dejaré la vida por este club”)–please don’t. We need you up front.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. vicsoc8
    May 21, 2010

    The only Durkheim work I’ve read/studied was Suicide and I’m really hoping that won’t be the introduction to your piece on the Barca philosophy.

      • barca96
        May 21, 2010

        you guys should give villa our own nickname since he is one of us 🙂

  2. Euler
    May 21, 2010

    Every transfer has it’s trade offs. Villa certainly was expensive. He’s at least a year to even two years older on transfer than what one would have liked. He will likely take some playing time away from Pedro and Bojan.

    That said, this was a critical signing because not only are they signing a world class player, but they are at the same time addressing what is likely their greatest weakness and doing so with a player that has insight into the system.

    There are very few players in the world who fit that profile. World class quality/ filling a significant weakness/ ready to fit into a demanding, intricate system.

    At the same time, a “traditional” left wing didn’t particularly suit their needs either.

    And ultimately, that’s why he was so expensive and why Barca were so willing to pay and wanting to move so quickly.

    Barca could not go into next season being as weak and as thin as they were on the left wing. This became a growing problem as the season progressed and Henry disappeared. It is one of the critical reasons why they are not playing in the CL final. Next season the problem could potentially gotten worse because managers would have had more time to adjust their tactics on a more consistent basis.

    Villa is going to address that weakness both directly and indirectly by allowing the system to generate width again along the left flank again. It is difficult to underestimate how important that will be.

    It is also a reassuring sign that Pep was honest about the weaknesses of the team and had the club move decisively to acquire a talent who can help address that need before a bidding war started.

    • barca96
      May 21, 2010

      most of the time i agree with your posts but this time, i have one little thing to disagree.
      the way i look at it is that pep obviously wants a mobile forward line, hence the benching of ibra, and in came bojan.
      so now villa will bench ibra and bojan altogether imo.
      villa is an upgrade of bojan, bojan who benched ibra.
      so its a cheetah vs. mouse(bojan) vs. elephant(ibra) for CF :p
      with pedro on the left hand side.

      • Ramzi
        May 21, 2010

        Bojan benched Ibra, Villa bench Bojan. You mean that we will have a Zillion Euro salary earner as a THIRD option in picking order?

        Its more likely that we swap Ibra to get Guti instead than seeing that scenario happening.

        Villa-Ibra-Messi I watched next season already. Dont miss it.

      • Euler
        May 21, 2010

        so now villa will bench ibra and bojan altogether imo.

        I agree that what you described above will happen during some games next season. You’ve raised a number of good points and tough issues the team will need to address to make this all work. There will be tactical advantages against some opponents to play pedro-villa-messi. But I personally think that will be the exception rather than the rule. I do think Villa-Ibra-Messi will work and hopefully do special things.

        Much of it depends on how one sees the team evolving – particularly how they will evolve the front line as a unit and how Ibra will adapt. You brought up Pep wanting a mobile forward line. What I think he wants is a more fluid forward line. Those two things are related but not the same.

        Fluidity – especially with a player with Ibra’s skill set – will come with time. Part of this stuggles were related to difficulties they had maintaining width on the left flank.

        I think playing with Villa will help Ibra. Pep is taking a big gamble – that’s what acquiring Ibra was – I think he can make it work.

      • Miguel
        May 21, 2010

        i agree w/euler in what you said being the exception & not the rule.

        i do disagree w/the notion that villa “tends to drift to the left anyway”, a statement made by quite a few people. that sounds like bullshit to me. if anyone’s watched him play for valencia on a consistent basis you know that he’s a center forward. more importantly, he’s almost always been played as a lone striker. he’s deadly anywhere in the penalty box. he’s supposed to be all over the place. if anything, he drifts to the right, in my opinion.

        it’s true he’s played on the left flank in del bosque’s 4-3-3 in a couple games, but not on a consistent basis. an even more common critique has been that spain plays better w/only one striker: //http://www.zonalmarking.net/2010/02/23/teams-of-the-decade-7-spain-2008/

        i hope he does well. pep will fit him in. i’m geeked! should be a fun next season. i’m still up for playing ibra on the left flank, though ;^)

  3. Ramzi
    May 21, 2010

    With Villa moving to Barca and Silva moving to Real Madrid, I think its safe to play a match between the two clubs for the title, and leave the Liga for the other clubs to compete for positions from 3 to 20.

    Welcome Villa. Now that you are our new 007, we will only talk about the full part of the glass. Great player for a great team.

    Note: Instead of imitating the EPL TV money distribution, I demand applying the Bundesliga system of Clubs Auditing. Soon I will write an article about it. Now enjoy the new wizard in our fantasy hood.

    • Alexinho
      May 25, 2010

      Cannot wait for the financial post. Do let us know.

  4. Soto
    May 21, 2010

    Isaiah, thanks for bringing up the finances issue. In all of the transfer hoopla, this has begun to bother me the most. We have an outgoing president that seems hell bent on making some major financial investments into the team and I worry about debt load that he may be straddling on Barcelona’s future.

    My concerns are not being driven by Rosell’s political, since as a non-socio I have paid no attention to the election candidates. My concerns are driven by the fact that La Liga as a whole is in financial straits. Mallorca just went into administration and other teams are clearly suffering. Add to that the fact that the Spanish economy is in rough shape. So I begin to worry that even a team that’s in good financial state, which Forbes claims Barcelona is, could easily get in trouble with low ticket sales and jersey sales in the future.

    So how do we balance this amazing signing with a long term financial outlook for the club? Because I am really enjoying these past few years and I want the fun to last as long as possible.

    Thus, I eagerly await your insights from wading through this quagmire.

    • Kxevin
      May 21, 2010

      Here’s the thing about money and finances. You can cook the books however you want them to be. Forbes says we’re in great shape. Sandro Rosell says that we aren’t, and if you vote for me I will make sure that we’re in great shape, after I splash for Fernando Torres that is. So stand back.

      Take everything that any political candidate says with a grain of salt. When we are taking out a quarter-billion Euros in bank loans to sign players, then start worrying about our finances.

      That’s the quick and dirty version.

  5. Bill
    May 21, 2010

    I wanted this spanish james bond at barca last year if we had to make a trade. But the amouts we have splashed in exactly 1 yr is staggering. I guess I shouldnt care about it, but I liked things better when we were a system with players from la masia, and a few crucial pieces were bought. That way, I knew we were smarter than chelsea, man city and real madrid.

    The thing that bothers me the most, like Isaiah, is that we are not offloading Ibra. For me, its either Ibra or Villa, to have them both means that Bojans and Pedro’s growth will be stunted, not to mention Jeffren And to think that we are thinking of splashing 50m for fabregas, instead of just telling him not to sign a new deal and come to us in 3 yrs is amazing, that also means Dos Santos and co. have to seriously think about their futures. I’m waiting to see how this saga turns out.

    • Kxevin
      May 21, 2010

      Well, management is between a rock and a hard place. The attacking possibilities created by a front line of Villa/Ibrahimovic/Messi are vastly superior to those created by a Villa/Krkic (or Pedro!)/Messi front line. Because there’s still one guy that you can ignore.

      Also, people want the team winning silver, period. No time for experimentation or growth, or nurturing canteranos. So for the 90% of the season in which Krkic was crap, what happens then?

      Pedro! should be a super sub. That’s his talent level. He was thrust into the crucible thanks to injuries, and was able to perform at an extraordinary level. Love that, but Pedro! is ultimately more Giuly.

      Not sure what Krkic is yet, except a player who spent most of season being a cipher, but had a few good games toward the end, that suddenly have come to define him. I’m not buying it. He’s still very limited.

      The growth of both of them can come in practice, and in the Copas and exhibitions of the world. Or matches in which someone is injured, or we are destroying someone.

      So, management has to balance the “win now” needs with the “nurture young’uns” need. And if they get it wrong, the villagers arm themselves with torches and pitchforks.

      With Messi and Villa, we aren’t much better than we were this season. There’s still no width, which means that our central striker is still too easy to play. Ibrahimovic, fully integrated into the side, completely changes that equation. You now have three players who will require at least two defenders each, all attacking. Even my math skills can detect the imbalance.

      Both Ibrahimovic and Villa have the fluidity to drift to the left or right, make passes, cut toward goal and create space.

      I just hope that Villa doesn’t have the misfortune to pick up an injury or have difficuties fitting into the side as Ibrahimovic did, or people will be calling for him to be sold after one season, as well. Cules are a tough crowd.

    • Soto
      May 21, 2010

      Plus, our side was too small last year. I remember last August that many people were concerned that the squad was too small, and I believe that concern proved true. Injuries limited us this year, particularly in our attempt to win more than one title.

      So, we should keep Ibrahimovic and Krkic both, in order to have more depth on the squad. I never really saw signs of rotation this year, but a deeper squad of such talent will allow true rotation next year. Thus, we might have a better rested team. Let’s not forget that some of our players are getting getting older (Xavi is 30) and thus their recovery time is longer. No need to beat up our talent if we don’t have to do so.

      • Jim
        May 21, 2010

        A great signing for me. Even when playing for Valencia you could see he played the Barca way. For me that was the difference with Ibra in that before he came he looked a great player (in the admittedly little that I saw him) but the system was nothing like ours and it was hard to see how he would adapt.

        I agree with the sentiments above that if Ibra doesn’t perform well at the start of next season we could be left with a problem as, although Pedro had a pretty good season and Bojan came onto a game after a poor season, neither at the moment are good enough to hold down a regular place in the best club side in the world. Ibra playing well would be but Pep won’t hesitate to bench him if he doesn’t produce the goods. If he benched him in this run in he’s not going to worry about doing it next season with Villa to bang in the goals. Still Ibra has the time now to get fully fit and steel himself for a big effort. I’m sure he’ll be getting the invite for dinner and a chat from Pep at some point. He certainly deserves our backing while we see if he can fit in.

        Still hoping Yaya doesn’t go . . .. I’d love to see him get more playing time further forward after his last display. Also don’t want to see him go to Chelsea as they could still be a danger next season.

  6. tutomate
    May 21, 2010

    I dreamed of this last season and even during a few posts that Hector Put up during the season. The Villa Ibra Messi has been in the works for sometime. Last year even after signing of Ibra TXixi said that it did not exclude Villa, and now it has happened. These are 3 players who can give so much individually and even more together, thy can all play each others position which gives Pep unlimited line ups to choose from. I’M SALIVATING at the possibilities.

    Ibra is not a dud like many seem to believe he has contributed a lot and in many aspects we can say this season might have been a lot different if not for him, and I don’t mean in a better way. He has a huge advantage that he better take advantage of during the off season, which is he can dedicate the time to getting ready for the season while everyone else is in the WC.

    I just don’t think that he will be sold as some believe no matter what Marca and sport say. The Team pics with the new kits seam to confirm this since he is in them. Last year Eto’o was not.

    • ballbeav
      May 21, 2010

      the main question is, with all due respect, why would hector change his name to “euler.”

  7. Jennifer
    May 21, 2010

    Just have to say one thing: This blog is extremly good! I’ve been following it since November or something like that and I really love it. You are all very talented writers.

  8. Joachim
    May 21, 2010

    erm.. Hi.. have been reading this blog since the beginning and when it was at the Offside site. Keep up the great work, always spend some time everyday looking for the latest news on Barca… You guys should earn some sort of blog medal or somethin’

    About the debt, who knows what is true? I can imagine that some of the fringe players will be sold (Henry, Marquez?, Hleb?, Caceres?, Henrique) or go out on loan (Jeffren, Thiago/). I doubt there are any real cash flow problems and totally agree that Fabregas should not come this year and certainly not at the stupid prices that are suggested at the moment.

  9. Lev
    May 21, 2010

    Love the signing although it is definitely weird to see Villa in a the blaugrana.

    Thinking Villa-Ibra-Messi with all forwards switching positions constantly in a way reminiscent of Rooney-Tevez-Ronaldo but better because of the best player of the trio orchestrating and leading the forward line instead of constantly trying to outshine them. Also to have Xavi and Iniesta right behind them. Wow.

    • ballbeav
      May 22, 2010

      we won’t know just how unfair it is until next season. i hope it’s real, real unfair. 🙂

  10. Stephen
    May 22, 2010

    Im excited for next season! No Injuries, hopefully Iniesta can be fully capable all next season and we have many many goals and get another 6 Cups !

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