New York City FC: David Villa departure an opportunity

David Villa is reportedly wanting to play for one more season, but not at New York City FC. His departure may seem like a problem, but it could be an opportunity for Dome Torrent and his squad to evolve.

David Villa is a wonderful footballer. He is one of the most gifted, intelligent players in all of Major League Soccer. The statistics, which are hugely impressive, only tell half the story, though. It is in watching him play that you get to see his true genius.

The deftness of his touch, the awareness of his movement, his nuance and subtlety that fly in the face in the American obsession with athleticism and measurables. He is a Spanish throwback, coming to show that the old magicians still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Villa was New York City FC’s first signing. He has been integral to the early success that the franchise has enjoyed. His presence is irreplaceable. But now, at 37 and with his deal set to expire, his future is in doubt.

The most recent report, summarised nicely here, claims that Villa wants to play for one more season, but that it will not be in New York. How true that is, remains to be seen, but Dome Torrent did not really want to answer the question of Villa’s future after the Eastern Conference semi-final defeat to Atlanta United at the weekend:

“I don’t know. It’s not the right time, believe me, because we are disappointed. Right now it’s not the best moment to speak about that, about David, about the contract because [NYCFC sporting director] Claudio [Reyna] is ready to talk about that with the players in the next two or three days.”

Obviously, that is not even nearly a confirmation that Villa will not be with New York next season. And it would be foolish to speculate at this stage. But while NYCFC losing their best player, highest scorer in every single season of their existence and record appearance maker by some distance sounds like a major problem, Villa’s departure could offer the opportunity for evolution.

MLS is changing. The days of an ageing, big-name DP are coming to a close, even with the successes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney this season. The four remaining teams in the MLS playoffs — the New York Red Bulls, Atlanta United, the Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City — have all steered clear of this route.

Atlanta, especially, the team that defeated Villa and New York teammates last weekend, have shown a new way to build a squad, one that revolves around youth, talent from South America, and a vibrant, energetic playing style. Villa wouldn’t really fit in Atlanta. That is a sign of the changing times in MLS.

Perhaps it is also a sign that his exit may not be the calamitous development that, at first glance, it may seem. Moreover, injuries began to curtail his availability and efficacy this season. There is no guarantee that, one year on, they again return to scupper his season.

Losing a player of Villa’s quality is never a nice thing. It never seems like progress. But sometimes it takes a push to improve. New York City FC and Torrent need that push.