In a special eight part series, totalBarça will feature each of the FC Barcelona nominees from the 23-man shortlist for the 2011 FIFA Ballon d’Or. From November 12th through December 2nd, a different contributor will present a nominee and argue for why he should win this year’s prestigious award before the announcement of the final three contenders on December 5th. Harshawardhan reminded us of Éric Abidal’s warrior like spirit. For this post, Amanda will demonstrate how David Villa is a worthy professional.
2011 has been another banner year for FC Barcelona’s David Villa. The forward, who turns 30 in a few days, became Spain’s all time top scorer this year and also filled some notable gaps in his trophy cabinet: winning the UEFA Super Cup, La Liga, and the Champions League, all for the first time. Along the way he’s scored some memorable goals, including the very last goal to be allowed by legendary goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, a beautiful goal in the Champions League final that was cheered with rousing choruses of ‘Villa, Villa, Villa, Villa Maravilla’ around the world. Beyond the trophies and brilliant flashes, what stands out most for me regarding David Villa are three characteristics so well embodied by the player: hard work, professionalism, and consistency.
While many fans and the media might balk at this idea of consistency, the Asturian remains a consistent goal scorer. So far this season, he has 9 goals from 22 games. Considering that the season is about two-fifths of the way completed, that puts Villa on track for around 20 goals this season. Since the 2001-02 campaign, despite playing for four different clubs (Sporting Gijon, Real Zaragoza, Valencia, and now FC Barcelona), he has scored at least 20 goals every single season. Despite the changes and playing with different personnel, each year has seen Villa consistently net between 20-30 goals for his club, and it looks like he will at least reach his minimum number of 20 goals yet again in 2011-12.
Last season, his first with FC Barcelona, he scored 23 goals wearing the blaugrana colours, along with 9 assists. Some memorable goals included his ‘maravilla’ goal in the Champions League final and a brace in several of last season’s manita scorelines against opponents like Sevilla, Espanyol, and Real Madrid, in the match last November that is considered to be one of FC Barcelona’s best ever games.
While this season he might be in the throws of a dry spell in the league, with just 5 goals and 1 assist to his name so far, he is more than making up for it in the Champions League. In his first season at Barça, Villa scored 4 Champions League goals and had 2 assists in 12 games. This year he is already at 3 goals and 1 assist in only 5 matches, with the more crucial stages of the knock-out rounds still to come. Add to that a great goal against Real Madrid at the Bernabéu in the Spanish Super Cup (Barça’s first goal in a 2-2 draw), and his numbers at club level don’t appear nearly as bad as one would expect, considering the level of disappointment levelled at the player by some.
Of course, one can’t examine David Villa’s year without mentioning the fact that he now stands alone as Spain’s all time leading scorer, having surpassed Raúl’s tally of 44 goals in March of this year. He currently has 50 goals in 80 appearances for Spain, including 3 goals in his last 4 appearances for his country. Besides being Spain’s top scorer in the 2008 European Championship (4) and the 2010 World Cup (5), he has scored 7 of Spain’s 26 goals to help qualify his team to this summer’s European Championship.
So consistent, yes. But hard-working and professional? Making the move from Valencia, Villa also had to make a significant move on the pitch. No longer the undisputed star of the team, nor the focus of the attack, Villa has had to adapt to often playing on the left wing, which has left no dent on his scoring statistics to date. One can imagine that this change hasn’t been easy for a player who’s spent most of his career in the center.
Besides moving to the left, Villa’s also had to adapt his game to embrace the defensive duties expected of all of Barcelona’s players: to pressure, recover lost balls, and track back when needed. When asked about adapting to this position and his new duties, Villa has always been humble, pointing to Pedro as his example: “Pedro helped me a lot during this learning stage. When I had doubts, and felt a bit lost in the ground, I’d look at what he was doing on the other wing, and I corrected my position.”
His attitude and approach have proved an asset to Villa in other ways. Unlike some of the strikers who have come before him, Villa has never been known to have a problem with Guardiola, his teammates, or what he has been asked to do on the field. This in itself is testimony to his work ethic and professional attitude, considering the number of forward players who have failed to satisfy the demands of Guardiola and the team’s system of play in one way or another. This year, especially, there’s been extra pressure on Villa, with injuries to Afellay, Pedro, Alexis, and to some extent, Cesc and Iniesta, turning the spotlight ever brighter on the Asturian striker. But Guardiola continues to have faith in his player, whose qualities he has recently deemed to be “indisputable.”
This added pressure on Villa may be behind the most recent rumours that have appeared in the press of a rift with Messi, but for the most part these rumours seem overblown, with little evidence to support the claims. Villa himself stated in a recent interview that it was both a “joy” and a “privilege” to play with Messi, who has made him “a better player.”
Turning to the more personal, I often feel that Villa hasn’t quite received the credit he deserves. Consistency, hard work, and professionalism have rewarded Villa now with many team trophies for club and country, but relatively few individual awards. In fact, in some ways it fees like Villa has often been overshadowed by more illustrious teammates or circumstances. In 2008, despite finishing as the top scorer in the 2008 European Championships with Spain, it was Fernando Torres, who scored in the final, who seemed to receive the majority of the plaudits. During that time, Villa was also the main star for Valencia, who despite winning the Copa del Rey in 2008, endured lean times in the shadow of Spain’s two biggest clubs.
Now at Barcelona, Villa stands in the shadow of the best player of the age, Lionel Messi, along with the other home grown stars who have a special place in the hearts of the fans. It even feels like, at times, Villa is overshadowed by the future stars that will wear the blaugrana shirt, with the media already discussing probable forward lines for future Barça sides and who will be bought to replace the Asturian striker.
If this year’s FIFA Ballon d’Or does, indeed, go to the favored Messi, Villa, the consummate professional, will without a doubt celebrate his teammate’s achievement. The forward, who certainly deserves to be on the 23 man shortlist for the award and to win, will then get back to work and continue doing what he does best – consistently scoring goals. And when crunch time comes, I expect David Villa will be ready to deliver, and I for one will be ready to join in singing about what a marvel he truly is.
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