David Villa Exclusive: Atletico Madrid Star Talks Barcelona, Diego Costa, MLS

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David Villa Exclusive: Atletico Madrid Star Talks Barcelona, Diego Costa, MLS
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Atletico Madrid striker David Villa is a Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 winner and Spain's all-time top scorer. In his time with Barcelona he won a Champions League and twice claimed the La Liga title.

The following is an exclusive interview translated by Villa's publicist Ben Miller (@BenWSMiller).

BLEACHER REPORT: Atletico Madrid are enjoying a fine season. Do you think beating Real Madrid and Barcelona to the title would represent one of the great achievements of your career?

DAVID VILLA: We are fighting with Real Madrid and FC Barcelona for the league title, which is itself a great achievement, as we are talking about two of the most powerful clubs in the world.

There is a lot of value in what we have achieved so far this season. But at the moment we are not thinking about what it would mean to win the title. It’s one of our manager’s mantras to approach the season on a game-by-game basis, and that is what we are doing.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

 

B/R: How has life changed for you since your move from Barca to Atleti? What are the biggest differences?

DV: To be honest, my life hasn’t really changed that much at all. I’ve moved from a great city, Barcelona, to another great city, Madrid. Day-to-day life is basically the same. The most important thing is that my family is happy, which they were in Barcelona and they are in Madrid.

In terms of changing team, we shouldn’t forget that Atletico is also a top club in Spain, so organisationally it functions in pretty much the same way as FC Barcelona. I was lucky to encounter a friendly and warm dressing room at Atletico. The players have made me feel just like another part of the team from the very first day.

 

B/R: Tell us what it's been like playing alongside Diego Costa this season. Do you find your strengths complement each other?

DV: My relationship with Diego is pretty good, both on and off the pitch. We try to do what’s best for the team—which we both agree is the most important aspect of our play. We understand each other really well, which has helped the team score goals and win matches. It’s a team effort at Atletico. Diego is a class striker, and his goal tally this season confirms this.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

 

B/R: At 32, what elements of your game do you think are better now than ever before?

DV: It’s obvious that with the passing of the years I’ve gained a lot of experience. I think that I have improved my attacking movements over time to complement my goalscoring instinct, which is something that I’ll never lose. This season I’m working harder than ever on physical preparation as here we all have to put in a huge amount of work for the benefit of the team.

I feel like I’m in a great moment of my career. I’ve played across different attacking positions this season, which has helped improve me overall as a footballer. This season, for example, I am equally happy playing alongside Diego Costa in attack or providing assists to my team-mates.

 

B/R: Which current players do you most admire? And are there players you would love to have played alongside that you've never had the chance to?

DV: The current football figure I most admire is a manager, not a player—although what a great player he was! Luis Enrique will always be a reference to me for everything that he represents for Asturias, the region I am from. As a player he was incredible and represents Asturian football perfectly, and I think that he is now doing an excellent job as a manager at Celta de Vigo.

I would love to have played alongside strikers such as Ronaldo (the Brazilian!), Ruud van Nistelrooy or Romario. These were all brilliant footballers—complete one-offs.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

 

B/R: You've played your entire career in Spain. Have you ever been tempted to leave? Do you think you might like to play in America one day and what do you think about the MLS?

DV: In the last couple of years it is true that I have had the opportunity to play overseas, but I decided to stay in Spain. In the future who knows what might happen?

It’s clear that U.S. is an interesting destination. I think that MLS has grown a lot over recent seasons, and I have friends that have gone to play there and have talked to me really positively about the experience. What’s more, knowing the sporting culture in America—with competitions that are references in the world of sport, such as the NBA and NFL—I am sure that in the mid-term MLS can achieve equal status to the best leagues in the world.

But for now I don’t want to think too far ahead. I’d like to keep my focus on the day-to-day at Atletico because we have an incredible couple of months ahead of us right now.

 

B/R: Is it safe to say this summer's World Cup will be your last? Does that make it extra special for you?

DV: I am working as hard as humanly possible at Atletico to be at the World Cup in Brazil, but that depends on a decision made by the national team coach. Hopefully I’ll be there and try to help Spain as I have done in the past. If I make it, it’ll be my last World Cup.

In Russia 2018 I’ll be 36 and looking at the younger generation of Spanish talent fighting to push through. It would be hard to imagine another World Cup for me after Brazil. If I am in Brazil it will be with the same excitement and motivation as in 2006 and 2010 because to take part in a World Cup is always something magical.

Scott Heavey/Getty Images

 

B/R: How does the role you play for Spain differ from that you play at Atleti?

DV: This season I am playing more as a central striker alongside Diego Costa. In the national team there is a lot of mobility between the attackers, and we constantly change positions throughout matches. Often I start off playing on the left but end up in the middle. I am comfortable playing either way.

 

B/R: What do you like to do outside of football? We've read you have a keen interest in music and culture.

DV: Outside of football I love music and cinema. This year in Madrid I have really gotten into going to the theatre to see plays and also enjoy going to musicals. But most of all I just like being with my family. I have got three kids and try to spend as much time as possible with them and my wife.

Often the life of a professional football player doesn’t allow you to spend as much time with your family as you’d like. Every hour should be cherished.

 

B/R: What advice would you give your children if they wanted to pursue a career in professional sport? Is there anything you'd tell them to avoid?

DV: If any of my kids wanted to play football professionally, my advice would be: Give it all you have to reach your dream. Always be honest and respect your teammates and opponents. With hard work, dedication and sacrifice, anything is possible.

Lalo R. Villar/Associated Press

 

B/R: What's been the single happiest moment of your football career so far and why?

DV: Winning the World Cup in South Africa was a unique moment for me. Having won Euro 2008, winning the World Cup was a tremendous joy for an entire generation of footballers and a country that had been waiting for many years for this kind of happiness.

On a personal level I have great memories of the Champions League final in Wembley against Manchester United. I scored one of the goals, which was an indescribable feeling, and it was an outstanding team performance.

 

B/R: You face your former team Barcelona in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Will that be hard for you, and what do you expect?

DV: I have very fond memories of my time at FC Barcelona, and I have many friends at the club. As such they all know me and understand what kind of player and person I am. I’ll fight with every grain of energy I have to win for my team, and this will be no different against FC Barcelona.

In our last league match in January we drew 0-0, so I imagine a very tight and closely fought tie. We’ll have to be at our very best to eliminate them, but FC Barcelona will not be looking forward to meeting us.

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