By FRANCO PANIZO
NEW YORK — New York City FC knew they would have to make a splash with their first player signing, and they believe they have done so perfectly with the addition of David Villa.
NYCFC signed Villa to a three-year, Designated Player deal on Monday, making the veteran striker who won the 2010 World Cup with Spain the club’s first acquisition ahead of their debut MLS season in 2015. Villa’s arrival brings a recognizable player to a city that likes marquee names and big personalities, but he also offers plenty of skill and all the experience in the world after playing at the highest levels for both club and country.
“For me, David Villa is the absolute perfect first player for New York City FC,” said head coach Jason Kreis. “He has all the playing characteristics that we were looking for and he has all the off-the-field characteristics of the person that we want to be our first signing and the person that we want to embody New York City FC.”
Villa’s resume speaks for itself, so much so that Kreis has yet to speak with the 32-year-old forward about his move stateside. Villa has played for top Spanish clubs like Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in recent years, scored 56 goals in 94 appearances for Spain to be the country’s all-time leading scorer, and claimed various trophies throughout his career.
The tricky part about the Villa signing is that NYCFC do not begin training until next January. He is expected to join the club then, but will likely spend the next few months training with a club.
Recent reports had linked him with a loan move to Manchester City FC – which partly owns the MLS franchise – but NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna shot down that notion.
“We’ve discussed and we’ve put a training plan to keep David fit and ready to compete,” Reyna said. “The most important thing is that he’s ready for 2015 and we know he will be for New York City FC. He’ll be playing some games, but we can’t reveal just yet where these will be.
“But we can state that he will not be at Manchester City. He won’t be playing for Manchester City.”
From a business standpoint, Villa is the kind of player that will attract interest as the club attempts to break into the populated sports landscape in New York. He is someone who could be the face of the franchise, and NYCFC believe his arrival will help them catch the attention of the hordes of soccer fans in the area.
“With the market place and as many options as people have in New York City, you have to work hard to differentiate yourself in the market,” said chief business officer Tim Pernetti. “I think David’s signing is just another indication – as we’ve given our fans along the way – of our level of seriousness about making this a successful franchise in New York and also incorporating people that are not just good players on the field, but good people off the field.
“This matches up in every way of the DNA of the club that we’re continuing to develop, and I think it’ll mean great things as we continue to grow the business.”
Villa – who was not on the conference call and will represent Spain as they attempt to defend their World Cup title in this summer’s tournament in Brazil – will face challenges in MLS. He has not played for a club outside of his native land in his career, and there will be a transitioning phase on and off the field.
NYCFC are unfazed by that, however, because they believe Villa will prove to be as good of a first signing as any they could have made.
“It’s very important that we really have the right person, the right character that could really be the right launchingpad for us on the field,” Reyna said. “David is the perfect person. He’s humble, he’s hardworking, he’s very committed to this. He had many opportunities and options and he’s very, very excited about being one of the leaders of this team and playing his part however he has to.
“There was no doubt in speaking to him and meeting him in person just what type of person he was. Everything I heard about him was true, so it was just the perfect fit, as we kept saying, in terms of the type of player we want on the field – scoring goals and being exciting for our fans – and off the field helping our club grow, helping our younger players develop. … These are all things he was very outgoing and open and very excited about being that type of player within our team and assuming that role.”