He’s the captain. He’s the reigning MVP. He’s El Guaje.
Ever since David Villa first donned the New York City FC blue, he has been nothing short of spectacular for the club, both on and off the pitch.
He’s been even better than advertised as a captain, an ambassador, and everything else you might expect from a Designated Player blazing his trail stateside. And in his third season in Major League Soccer, he might just be putting in his best performance yet.
In Villa’s first two seasons with NYCFC, he knocked in an impressive 41 goals and tallied 12 assists in 63 games played, per mlssoccer.com. And amazingly, in year 3, he’s not slowing down in the slightest. After a hard earned brace at Yankee Stadium against the reigning league champions Seattle Sounders, David Villa is now up to 10 goals and 6 assists in 2017, and is once again making a strong midseason case for MVP.
You don’t expect players to expand their game at the age of 35, but that’s exactly what Villa’s doing. With 6 big assists already on the season, Villa is well on target to reach a career high in dimesthis season just a year after posting a career high in league goals. And these numbers all come while he’s played target forward, a position he was never really known for playing in La Liga or during his time on the Spanish National Team.
But that’s what Villa has done every step of the way during his tenure in the Bronx: he’s constantly evolving. He’s evolved as a player and as a leader. It goes without saying how amazing it is that he learned English so fast, basically only operating in his first season in need of a translator.
On top of that, he’s never ceased to enhance his game as well, changing from a support striker who needed to play off a target man to a target man and fulcrum the rest of the offense can play off of.
Of course, we’re all familiar with the style and class he’s done it with so far:
But if we dig even deeper, we can see how the numbers bear out this evolution in Villa’s game even more:
As the chart reiterates, Villa’s time with NYCFC and Major League Soccer has been just as good as, if not better than, any other point in his glorious career. Granted, there are the usual caveats one may want to apply here (quality of the league, etc.), but the fact remains that Villa has remained not only as impactful as promised, but even better than anyone could’ve reasonably expected, all the while doing things he has never done before in his career - like become an even greater facilitator and playmaker.
So, the question bears asking: how long can David Villa keep this up? At the very least, we hope that he can continue this elite level performance through the remainder of his contract - which would take him into his age 37 season.
It’s worth noting that Robbie Keane infamously terrorized MLS over a five-year span, averaging 16.2 goals per season well into his mid-thirties with the LA Galaxy. In 2016, Zlatan Ibrahimovic finished 7th in the EPL in goal scoring at the tender age of 35; no other player over 30 reached the top 10 last season.
Players of this tier can and have continued to remain elite despite Father Time nipping at their heels. It may not seem logical to expect continued greatness from Villa, but we are already in uncharted territories as it stands. Even megastars like the fabled Thierry Henry didn’t manage to succeed in MLS at the rate Villa is right now.
We are reaching territory where Villa is more and more likely to go down as the best Designated Player ever in MLS, at least relative to his time in the league. He may as well be getting better with age — Patrick Vieira has famously said that the player is getting younger — and his work rate has not slowed down in the slightest. Look no further than our very own Noah Sobel-Pressman’s excellent piece this week, highlighting the defensive effort Villa puts in every match to boot. Players, especially strikers, are not supposed to be putting up this level of effort on both sides of the ball, certainly not at 35.
But that’s just the kind of legend David Villa is.
As it stands, the only flaw (and it could be considered a big one) in his NYCFC armor is his record and overall offensive performance against the dreaded New York Red Bulls. He hasn’t delivered up to this point against his Hudson River Rivals, but even that could change as quickly as this Saturday, when the Blues meet the Reds for their second of four meetings in 2017.
But for now, let’s not nitpick, folks. Rather, let’s drink in the brilliance that is David Villa, and be thankful that our young franchise is led by one of the greatest DPs — and greatest players, period — ever to play the Beautiful Game in America.