After flirting with several English clubs in the past, David Villa is eyeing up a move to the Barclays Premier League. The Valencia striker has had a change of heart after failing to secure a transfer to Barcelona or Real Madrid last summer and is finally ready to leave Spain, a message that will be received with interest in the boardrooms of Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City.
As a lightning-fast forward with a rare eye for goal, Villa’s skills remain as compelling as ever, but his circumstances have changed. In an interview with The Times, the 29-year-old admits for the first time that he is willing to move abroad and is ready for a challenge beyond the two giants of Spanish football, which was not the case when Chelsea made a £36 million bid last summer. “Quite simply, I rejected the possibility of moving abroad at that moment because there were issues that would not allow me to leave my country...my wife was pregnant and it didn’t seem right to leave,” he said. “I like the Premier League a lot. It’s the league I follow the most along with La Liga and I’ve got a lot of friends playing there. There are a lot of globally important teams there that play very good football.”
Valencia have admitted that they need to find about £40 million by the end of next summer to remain solvent — reports claim they have more than €700 million (about £620 million) in debt — and that they must listen to offers for Juan Manuel Mata, David Silva and Villa. Consequently, the striker is preparing his young family for a move: his English is improving and he is engaging in frequent conversations with Spanish friends, including players and journalists, who have already made the move abroad.
However, Villa’s willingness and capacity to adapt to another country have been questioned by some of his closest allies in the Valencia squad. A senior player said: “He [Villa] needs friends around him. He needs to joke, be understood, be listened to and feel secure in his comfort zone.” Villa is quick to disagree. “That’s not true. I think that’s said because of what happened in the summer when I rejected a move to another league. I’m someone who left home at 21 years of age to be with my wife and I’ve always been a long way from my family — and I really don’t see them all that often. I’m a survivor. Adapting to a new language, to the football, it’s all part of being a footballer. Having said that, I’m comfortable here, calm, happy; I show that better out on the pitch than in front of a microphone. We’re still a long way off from the months of June and July, and when they come around we’ll analyse the situation then.”
There may be another twist to this story in March, when the contract runs out with his representative, José Luis Tamargo. Countless agents have been in touch with the player, promising him the best deal out of a move to one of Europe’s biggest clubs. Tamargo has been contacted by the decision-makers at Chelsea, Manchester City, United, Liverpool and Arsenal in the past two years, but the list of realistic potential suitors in England has been reduced to just three.
Chelsea would love to partner Villa with Drogba, but know that a move in January is impossible, while a transfer embargo is likely to prevent a summer move. Manchester City have been willing to push for him in the recent past, but their project has, until now, not been attractive enough for the player. Manchester United have also registered an interest, but have never followed it up with an offer.
Villa believes that there has never been a better time for the best English clubs to make their move for one of the very best Spanish players around. “Maybe quite a few years ago, Spanish players were reluctant to leave La Liga for another league,” he said. “But that’s all changed now. There are very important players, a showcase of Spanish footballers playing for Premier League clubs; and there are players in other leagues, lesser leagues, as well. “I think that the Spanish footballer has changed in this aspect in the last few years.”
• David Villa will appear in Goles y goles y goles on Sky Sports 1 at 7pm on December 30
Do believe the hype
Clubs: Valencia, Real Zaragoza, Sporting Gijón Domestic record: 182 goals, 336 league games European club record: 16 goals, 42 games
How Villa’s international record compares with other leading Spain forwards:
Villa 35 goals, 54 games Raúl 44, 102 Fernando Torres 23, 71 Fernando Morientes 27, 47
Villa has interested plenty of top European clubs in recent years but is yet to secure a big move.
Liverpool Recommended by Torres to Rafael Benítez last summer, but the Liverpool manager believed that to accommodate Villa he would have to build the team around the Spain forward.
Barcelona Had £37 million bid turned down last summer, with Valencia wanting £45 million.
Chelsea Attempted to sign Villa in the summer but put off by fee and believed he wanted to stay in Spain.
Real Madrid Sought other targets, notably Karim Benzema for £30 million, after talks in June.
Manchester United Continue to have a longstanding interest but chose to reinforce forward line with Michael Owen in the summer.
No top striker gets near David Villa’s scoring record
David Villa rising to the occasion in team lacking head for heights <---This one is a couple months old