Why You'll Like Him
Worked his way up the ladder of Spanish football to become one of the world's most prolific goal scorers. Modest in his achievements, loyal to his teams and married to his childhood sweetheart, Spain's top-class striker is also a top-class guy.
Why You'll Hate Him
A sworn enemy of Real Madrid and Raul Gonzalez fans, Villa warded off big-money offers from Real Madrid and instead signed with FC Barcelona. Then Real-Madrid manager Bernd Shuster scolded him for "lacking ambition" in not wanting to sign with Los Mergenues. Also inherited Raul's #7 shirt and uprooted him from his place in the Spanish National Team.
Clubs: Sporting Gijon (2001-2003), Real Zaragoza (2003-2005), Valencia (2005-2010), Barcelona (2010-on)
International Debut: February 9, 2005 in a 2006 World Cup Qualifier against San Marino
Initially dreamed of becoming a miner like his father, Villa realized that he was capable of earning a good living playing football. In 2000, he signed with second-division Sporting de Gijon. After tallying forty goals in two seasons, he was picked up by La Liga side Real Zaragoza. He had no trouble adjusting to the top tier and scored 17 times that season, as well as taking the team to a brilliant Copa del Rey run and defeating Real Madrid in the Final. In need of money, Zaragoza sold Villa to Valencia in 2005. He continued his prolific ways and netted 28 times in his first season at the club. He also helped propel Valencia to the UEFA Champions League three seasons in a row. He won the Spanish Player of the Year in 2006 and helped Valencia win the Copa del Rey the following year. After being aggressively pursued by Real Madrid and Manchester United, Villa signed with Barcelona in May 2010 in the seventh most expensive transfer deal of all time.
Villa made his senior debut in 2005 in a World Cup qualifier. After a fine first season at Valencia, Villa was selected in Spain's 23-man roster for the 2006 World Cup. In his World Cup debut against Ukraine, he hit a brace. He tied with Fernando Torres as Spain's top scorer of the tournament with three goals. Villa had his international breakthrough at Euro 2008, however. His six goals in qualifying ensured his selection over Spanish legend Raul. He scored a hat trick against Russia, scored the winner against Sweden in the final group match and converted the first penalty in Spain's 4-2 quarterfinal win against Italy. Sadly he missed the Final due to a re-aggravated thigh injury. Still, his four goals earned him the tournament's Golden Boot. He has since scored seven times in 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying and is expected to play a starring role in Spain's exemplary squad this summer.
What to Expect
In a word: goals. He is undoubtedly one of the most prolific goal-scorers in the world, scoring 156 times in 2005-2009. He also has a heavenly first touch, blistering pace, crafty diagonal runs, two feet capable of scoring and an extraordinary killer instinct in front of goal. He is as proficient from distance as he is in the air. Look for him to be just as potent in this summer's World Cup whether he's in a three-man front line or up top by himself.
Jenna Pel's wicked left foot is overshadowed by the work she does at All White Kit, covering the women's game. Jenna will be contributing to SB Nation Soccer in the lead-up to the 2010 World Cup.
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