New York City FC: David Villa remains the exception to the rule

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - April 11: David Villa
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - April 11: David Villa /

New York City FC staked their fortune around David Villa when they formed as a club, and unlike many other superstars, Villa remains the exception to the trope.

MLS’s reputation as a retirement league is only now being laid to rest. Within the individual clubs, few teams felt the brunt of that negative reputation quite like New York City FC. I can’t count the number of tifos that depicted jabs at the age and overall ineffectiveness of Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo. Mainly from the Jersey side of things.

But they weren’t alone. Plenty of other teams did, and still do, cling to the coattails of over-the-hill stars who are intent on extending their relevance just a few more years. It’s a combination of a love for the game, a desire to continue being paid for what they’re good at, and surely many other things.

That said, it’s a rare instance where an aging, European superstar comes to American soil and continues right where he left off. In fact, it nearly never happens. Only a few pop into mind. Robbie Keane, for instance, did a fantastic job continuing his successes when he came to LA.

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That said, Keane was a part of a heavy-hitting LA team that was the best in MLS and a veritable powerhouse year in and year out.

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What New York City FC asked David Villa to do was much more than that. They had a massive budget, no stadium, an unclear path forward and three high-paid DPs. But it was one DP that proved himself to be everything that was expected of him and more. And that proof is ongoing.

David Villa is never included in the critique of MLS’s habit of snatching up old superstars. It would be a crime against the sport itself to consider him as more of the same. Not just because he has had success, like Keane had, at scoring goals, but because of what he has meant to the city, to the team and, perhaps most importantly, what you continue to see out of him on the pitch on any given matchday.

VIlla never quits so long as the ball is in play, he has captained the young team from the day it was born and he has become an icon for a city, the way he once was at Barcelona. And for that, he will always be one of the more celebrated names in MLS, and a clear indication of what teams were hoping to get when they signed someone done with Europe and ready for that “next challenge.”

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He scored his 400th goals this past weekend, and that makes him just the fifth player to score as many goals. And naturally, in his typical fashion, he scored another to make it 401. And more are yet to come. Because he is not coasting in on fumes, he is going hard as ever.