David Villa, who has been playing well for the New York City FC in recent months, will make his big return in the Spanish national team next week. The European nation is set to take on Italy and Liechtenstein in the World Cup qualifiers.
Villa last represented his home country in 2014 at the World Cup in Brazil when Spain failed to qualify for the second round of the competition. At the time, no one expected to see him wear the La Furia Roja jersey again because he said he was retiring from international soccer.
Despite the official statements, Villa always kept a special spot in his heart for Spain and never entirely closed the door on a potential return as he started finding his footing in Major League Soccer (MLS). However, many experts did not see an MLS player capable of competing against stars from Europe’s top leagues like La Liga and the Premier League.
With Villa’s retirement, Diego Costa became the main attraction of Spain’s frontline. Alvaro Morata also gained more prominence after successful stints at Juventus Turin and Real Madrid.
The situation changed this season and made it possible for Spain’s coach, Julen Lopetegui, to bring back Villa without much controversy. After all, he is still a 35-year-old striker playing in the MLS.
Costa has not played in over three months with Chelsea. The Italian coach of the Premier League champions, Antonio Conte, wants him to leave, but his transfer to Atletico Madrid is taking time to be completed.
Moreover, Morata has just joined Chelsea and needs more time to feel at ease in his new environment. These developments need to be coupled with the fact that Villa has been playing great soccer this year.
He scored his first MLS hat-trick on August 6 showing the soccer world that he still has a lot to offer. Many commentators expect Villa to continue playing for Spain in the next few games, at least, until Costa is fit again.
This is great news for the MLS and a form of recognition. Yes, other MLS players have represented their home countries on the international level in the past, but none of them had Villa’s stature.
The former FC Barcelona star won the UEFA Euro 2008, the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and has scored more goals in MLS than anyone else this season.
It is clear, Villa is in a different league.
[Featured Image by Alex Menendez/Getty Images]