Barcelona’s David Villa appears to be at a crossroad in his illustrious career. The Spanish striker’s time at the Nou Camp is expected to come to an abrupt end in the January transfer window, although the club’s Director of Football, Andoni Zubizarreta, has surprisingly announced he plans to keep his front man at least until the end of the season: “In January we will keep Villa and it is important to remember that Barcelona is a club that habitually does not accept offers for star players in January.”
The statement has been widely regarded as part of the bargaining process rather than having any weight to it. Barcelona are a club that constantly look at ways of moving forward, so it seems unlikely they are about to give a 31-year-old, who has spent two frustrating seasons on the sidelines, another chance in the first team considering the Spanish giants have hardly struggled in his absence. On the business side of things, Villa’s contract is set to expire in the summer; surely Barcelona would rather cash-in than let him leave for nothing at the end of the season.
But the idea that Villa could stay at his current club isn’t completely far-fetched. Apart from Messi, who has been responsible for nearly half of Barcelona’s goals in La Liga, there is no distinct goal scorer throughout the rest of the team and Villa is in essence their only squad member capable of playing as an out and out striker, excluding the youngsters. But would he be truly happy wasting the rest of the current season as a cameo man, slowly drifting into the shadows? Or is it time for Villa to move on? As a football purist, I’d like to see the latter, and as an Englishman, I’d like to see him move to the Premier League.
Currently, there are four clubs in the hat to sign the Spaniard in the new year with the odds-on favourite being Swansea City. Initially, I found that rather surprising, but all things considered it makes sense, and could well be a good move for Villa. Swansea have the “Spanish connection”, and are reaping the benefits this season of attracting a number of La Liga footballers, who’s reputation preceeding their arrival at the Liberty Stadium varied, but have managed to successfully acclimatise them to the Premier League and indeed the Swans have played with a continental style and flair that has brought them success under Michael Laudrup. Their new boss’s connection to Barcelona could also be further incentive for Villa to relocate to Wales, and the idea of the 31-year-old teaming up with signing of the season, Michu, is a relishing thought.
Swansea may be playing well, and are set to be in the race for a Europa League spot at the end of the season, but there is the obvious argument that the Welsh club are a bit small-time for a Champions League and World Cup winner, no offence to Swans fans out there. A move to Chelsea would overcome that problem and still have some of the advantages previously discussed in regards to Swansea. Perhaps saying the Blues have a “Spanish connection” as well is a bit too far, but the London club certainly have a few key individuals that Villa is well acquainted with. Fernando Torres has lined up with his countryman numerous times on international duty, and indeed the two strikers were a prolific force during Euro 2008, with Villa being the competition’s top scorer. Additionally, Juan Mata is another member of the Spain set-up who could easily form a solid partnership with the 31-year-old, and Villa would no doubt take advantage of the good service Mata, along with the other two amigos – Eden Hazard and Oscar – would provide. From a Chelsea perspective, Rafa Benitez would be hoping bring Villa to Stamford Bridge would inject some life into the inconsistent and often lackluster Torres.
Liverpool and Arsenal are other two Premier League clubs that have been linked with David Villa, and the Spaniard has the opportunity to join either team in a somewhat heroic fashion as both are amid underachieving seasons. But then again, a certain amount of pressure would be placed upon Villa’s shoulders should he move to Anfield or The Emirates. Their cases are very similar, with both teams desperately needing a goal-scorer to remedy their failures. Furthermore, the possession style Arsenal and Liverpool employ would in theory suit the Barca man quite well. Wenger’s passing philosophy is well known, and although it is perhaps less effective than it used to be, it is still a core value of the first team.
Similarly, Brendan Rodgers’ tactics at Liverpool, to keep the ball and dominate possession is still a work in progress, but Villa could be one of the missing pieces of the jigsaw, and his ability to finish would certainly counteract the weakest part of Luis Suarez’s game. Not only does Villa know how to put the ball in the onion bag though, he’s also very adept on the ball, and part of the reason he’s at Barcelona is because of his all round contribution in terms of movement and passing, often running into the channels to make room for those around him, meaning he would compliment Arsenal and Liverpool’s style rather well.
But, as is often the case in football, the likelihood of Villa’s move to any of the four clubs mentioned previously will come down to the business side of things. Of course wages will be an issue – Arsenal’s tight-fisted manner is well known, while Liverpool’s wage budget is bursting at the seams due to a number of poorly thought-out contract arrangements – most notably Joe Cole’s current deal of 90k per week. The same can be said for Swansea, who are unlikely to be able to offer Villa anything near what he’s paid at Barcelona. Another stumbling block will be the other targets available in January. If Chelsea are to go for anyone, it will most likely be Radamel Falcao first. They can certainly afford his £48million transfer clause, but would be against some stiff competition for the Colombian’s signature.
Meanwhile, Arsenal and Liverpool are set to battle it out over Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Theo Walcott, with the latter also being a target for Chelsea. Although the 31-year-old may outclass both in terms of pedigree, he would most likely cost more with his price-tag seemingly set at £12million, and when his age is combined with that factor, signing Villa over Huntelaar and Walcott makes much less long-term business sense.
So although, in my opinion, Chelsea represents the best move for David Villa, when it comes down to the business side of things, the Spaniard’s choices are narrowed down incredibly quickly. I’m not a betting man, and there’s a reason why – the bookie is usually right. My money –which is always hypothetical – is on Swansea, and I believe the Liberty Stadium would be a good home for the very gifted ageing star.