Barcelona forward David Villa has been growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of game time he has been awarded under Tito Vilanova this season, perhaps understandingly so – this is, after all, a man who just two years ago was Spain’s top scorer as they lifted the World Cup for the first time since its inception.
Despite netting a midweek brace against Alaves to ensure the Catalans’ progression to the last 16 of the Copa Del Rey, and, in the process, taking his career total in excess of 300 club goals, he was once again relegated to the bench for Saturday’s clash with Athletic Bilbao.
With such a vast array of talent at Vilanova’s disposal, he faces a dilemma each week when it comes to picking his strongest team – a nice dilemma for any manager, but a dilemma all the same. Whether there is room for Villa in Barca’s best eleven is up for debate, but there can be no doubt that he is far too good a player to be sat on the bench week in, week out, particularly at the not-so-tender age of 31 (in fact, as I look to verify his age, I find it’s actually his birthday today – December 3rd – so happy birthday David Villa!).
Villa has already demonstrated his worth as a scorer of vital goals this season, most notably, perhaps, embodied by his introduction from the bench to score the winner in Barca’s 3-2 victory away to Sevilla at the end of September.
However, it cannot be enough for Villa to be used as a ‘super-sub’ style player, he’s simply too good a goalscorer, too talented, too valuable – and he knows it himself.
So why is he not utilized more often by Vilanova? After his horrific injury last season, it was always going to take time for him to stake his claim for a spot in the first time. Now fully recovered, he is not getting the match time he feels he deserve – perhaps understandably so, having netted a more than respectable five goals in ten La Liga appearances this season.
Barcelona are also growing more and more reliant on Lionel Messi’s goals. With Alexis Sanchez not performing to the best of his ability of late, and Pedro failing to recapture his form of the 2009/10 season which saw him finish on 23 goals, without Villa their biggest goal threat comes from Cesc Fabregas, also on five league goals for the season.
At the moment, Barca have no problem, Messi is scoring for fun and the team is winning, but should Messi get injured (which never seems to happen, ever) and Villa depart, Vilanova would be left with minimal options for the central role in his front three.
Saying that, with Barca’s demolition of Athletic Bilbao confirming that Tito’s side have made the best start after fourteen games in La Liga history, one wonders why he would mess with a winning formula.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, goes the old cliché. So where does that leave David Villa? Still one of the most clinical strikers in world football, and part of a tiny, almost non-existent cluster of men who can pull off that little soul-patch beard, he has to be highly sought after.
Of course, Barcelona’s preference would be to keep Villa at the club, but it is looking increasingly likely he will push for a move in the summer if not January. The line of potential suitors will not be short, should he become available.
It’s likely to alert the usual suspects – no doubt Chelsea will be sniffing around him, as they surely must look for an alternative to the misfiring Fernando Torres. Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and the sorts, with their plethora of gold enabling them to compete with any team in world football for the top players, also sure to be interested.
But Villa does not appear to be motivated by money; a refreshing attribute all too rare in the modern day footballer.
He could sit on the bench at the Nou Camp, continue to pick up what is no doubt a very handsome pay check, and perhaps pocket a number of medals while he’s at it. But that’s not for Villa. He wants to be playing every week, and a player of his quality deserves to do so. We as spectators deserve to see the master at work at more often.
Having played in the Spanish La Liga for the entirety of his career, could a switch of leagues be on the horizon? If he does push for a transfer, I have no doubt he could pick and choose from just about any club in the world.
So what next? We’ll just have to wait and see.