Getting anyone to move anywhere in Madrid before 11 at night is an ordeal due to the mind-melting heat. The fact that 20,000 sweating, sweltering supporters trekked down to the Vicente Calderon stadium on Monday evening to see a small footballer with an even smaller beard wandering around a pitch shows how really, really, really important David Villa is to Atletico Madrid.
The transfer of the forward from Barcelona to the Rojiblancos for a fee worth a maximum of €5.1 million saw hats tossed into the air in joy in the Atletico world. Villa is seen as the perfect player to fill the void of Falcao, the latest in a long line of strikers to leave the Calderon. The signing of the Asturian helps to ease a fear that Atletico’s claim as Spain’s third force in Spanish football is a temporary affair. The national side’s most prolific striker in the colours of the club shows that Atletico are here to stay.
Of course, in many other leagues a desire to be the third strongest side and nothing more does not seem that ambitious. However, that is the most realistic aim for Atletico in La Liga with the behemoths of Barcelona and Real Madrid too far ahead to ever be caught. “The deal is well judged by Atletico,” writes Alfredo Relano, the editor of AS the day after Villa’s presentation, “one year, then another, then another. Not much cash up front, in case it doesn’t work, though the general impression is that it will.” “The signing has the Atletico fans excited,” adds Relano.
The relative lack of cash needed by Atletico to bring the 31-year-old to the Calderon is certainly one area in which there is cause for celebration. What is also causing such a buzz is the fact that Villa is still seen as a top-class footballer in Spain and an enormously good catch. “I am going to try and give Atletico Madrid the very best David Villa,” promised the striker at Monday’s press conference. “I am fully motivated and will work my socks off in every training session,” added Villa, whose presence on the practice pitches will give an enormous lift to teammates.
Twenty league goals or more in the season to come for the former Barca man would not be too lofty a hope for Atletico supporters. After all, Villa is going to be forming part of what could be a very tasty forward line in the new season. Diego Simeone may well be selecting a furious four in the campaign to come with Villa leading the offense as the No. 9.
Support from the flanks could come from another new arrival: Leo Baptistao, with Arda Turan, ably assisting. The combative—a euphemism for dirty if ever there was one—Diego Costa could be Villa’s backup in the No. 10 role. It is an attack that is thrilling indeed and will be a challenge for most defenses in the Champions League, another key competition for Atletico Madrid next season.
Villa’s arrival to Atletico gives the Rojiblancos genuine reasons for optimism for the campaign to come. For a pessimistic club support that can all too often see glasses of water as empty, even when full to the brim, that feeling is worth half the transfer fee alone.