For many, certainly myself, it was strange to see Villa not in the starting lineup for the first Clasico of the season, but given his return to fitness following that horrific injury he suffered last December, and the current form of Pedro Rodriguez and Cesc Fabregas, his exclusion made some sense.
However, the decision not to give Spain’s all-time leading scorer playing time, could have its ramifications for Tito Vilanova.
During the game, when Barca were tied with Real at 1-1, it felt as though Villa would be a good substitution, but Vilanova opted for the tireless and energetic Alexis Sanchez.
Villa warmed up on the sidelines for around 20 minutes with young defender Marc Bartra and Alex Song, all of whom were unused when Vilanova failed to make a third substitution.
Marca has since reported that Villa was seen on numerous occasions looking over at the bench to gain the attention of Vilanova, but the man who replaced Pep Guardiola this summer failed to see Villa as a possible match winner.
Villa, who missed out on Spain’s Euro 2012 campaign this summer, has been frustrated with his lack of playing time, but he did admit when recovering from injury that he would not be able to jump straight back into the starting XI.
However, when seen exiting straight down the tunnel on Sunday night, Villa’s expression was blank, and left many understandably concerned at his dwindling patience for a first-team chance.
It is right to make Villa earn his place back in the team over the likes of Pedro, Alexis Sanchez and Cristian Tello, who all played so well along with Lionel Messi last season, but Vilanova must understand that Villa is one of those players who has been there and done it all—except sit on the bench.
Whilst many players at Barca will quite happily accept their position in the squad rotation system at the Catalan side, Villa may not, and if his exit on Sunday is anything to go by, then Vilanova may have Spain’s top all-time scorer knocking on his door in the coming weeks.