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Spain's all-time leading scorer has departed Atletico Madrid to become the first player for the MLS expansion club, which begins play next season.

New York City FC has confirmed David Villa as its first signing, announcing that Spain's all-time leading scorer has joined the club on a three-year deal.

The former Valencia and Barcelona striker departs Atletico Madrid after just one season, having scored 13 league goals to help his side become the Liga champion for the first time since 1996. Villa has scored 56 goals in 94 international appearances and is currently preparing to play in his third World Cup for defending champion Spain.

"Above all it was the quality and the capacity of the project and the desire they have to improve in MLS, which is really growing in importance," the 32-year-old told New York City's official website. "More than anything, the interest they have shown in me to be a figurehead of this project (was important). I’m happy and really looking forward to to helping the City Group grow even bigger with the team in New York. So let’s hope it all goes well.

"It’s in a new country on another continent with a different style of football, which is still growing. I want to try and help MLS continue to grow, through playing, working hard and scoring goals and at the same time try and make New York City become the best team in MLS."

NYCFC, which is co-owned by Manchester City and the New York Yankees, will enter MLS for the 2015 campaign and use Yankee Stadium as its temporary home. Orlando City is also set to join the league in 2015, with an Atlanta franchise scheduled to kick off in 2017 and David Beckham's Miami team confirmed pending a stadium agreement.

"Of course the tradition for the game is different, but that’s one of the challenges to help and encourage the people of New York to gain more enthusiasm for the game and become fans of NYCFC and supporters of soccer in general while feeling a part of this new club," Villa said. "Let’s hope we can get lots of new season ticket holders and lots of people who want to support the team and enjoy the football being played by New York City and David Villa.

"Yes, it’s a real honor that the people who have formed the club have thought of me. It’s definitely one of the main reasons why I like the project so much. It’s an honor to be the first player and a flag-bearer of New York City as they begin life in MLS. I’m really keen to do the best I can and take on board that extra responsibility and prove my worth."

Added NYCFC coach Jason Kreis: "I couldn't be happier that we have acquired such an amazing talent as our first-ever signing. David will be a shining example of what it will mean to be a New York City player and a leader for us on and off the field. He is hardworking, he is a natural competitor, he is a winner at heart, and he is a terrific man. David has checked every box for what we were looking for in our first signing and it is a great day to be a member of this growing family of a club."