Villa, the Spanish goal machine, stuck in the Europa League
It’s hard to believe Spain striker David Villa will not be playing in the Champions League again this season.
The Valencia frontman was in irresistible form against Belgium in a World Cup qualifier on Saturday when the European champions romped to a 5-0 victory in La Coruna.
Villa won and then missed a first-half penalty, before making amends by scoring two and setting up another two as Spain maintained their 100 percent record in qualifying to all but assure themselves of a place in South Africa next year.
Villa was already Spain’s second highest scorer of all time and now has 33 goals from 51 appearances –- just 11 short of Raul’s national record of 44.
What makes his tally even more impressive is that the former owner of Spain’s number seven shirt, Raul, bagged his total over 102 appearances.
Villa has time on his side, he turns 28 in December, and is on course to set a new Spanish benchmark at the World Cup finals.
But at club level, Villa will only be playing in the Europa League after Valencia finished sixth in La Liga last season.
It isn’t as though his talents have not been noticed by Europe’s leading clubs. He was tournament top scorer at Euro 2008, and has averaged almost 20 goals a season in La Liga with Real Zaragoza and then Valencia over the last six years.
Financially-troubled Valencia said they would consider offers that were “scandalously scandalous” over the summer as the big clubs circled.
But reports said Villa was keen to stay in Spain, which left big-spending Real Madrid and treble-winners Barcelona as his only possible destinations.
Real and Barca landed Cristiano Ronaldo (94 million euros) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (66 million euros) respectively, but neither were willing to stump up the money for one of the world’s most complete strikers, despite both clubs registering their interest.
For Real president Florentino Perez, who came closest to landing Villa but baulked at paying more than 40 million euros, the reasoning was thus:
“(Ronaldo and Kaka) are players that have won the Ballon d’Or and FIFA world player of the year awards, who I describe as ‘investment’ players because they have an international reach which others maybe haven’t reached,” he said in June.
Villa could be accused of a lack of ambition by wanting to stay in Spain, but Real or Barca may live to regret not signing him come next May.
PHOTO: Spain’s David Villa celebrates a goal against Belgium in Coruna, Sept.5 REUTERS/Juan Medina