Goal.com 50: David Villa (22)

Goal.com's countdown of the best 50 players of 2010-11 continues with the Barcelona striker, who played a crucial role in his club’s domestic and European success
Welcome to the Goal.com 50! In this special series, Goal.com editors worldwide vote for the top 50 players of 2010-11. We count down to the announcement of the winner on August 22 with profiles of each and every player who made it into the top 50...

When David Villa joined Barcelona from Valencia for €40 million last summer, it was universally acknowledged as one of the most guaranteed successful signings one could ever make. A regular and consistent scorer who had averaged over 20 league strikes a season for the previous five campaigns, the Spain international was to replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic to add to Barca’s slick passing movement and also find the back of the net.

Which he did, ending the 2010-11 campaign with 23 goals and six assists in all competitions, 18 of his strikes and five of his assists coming in 32 Primera Division starts. With Lionel Messi generally playing through the middle of a three-pronged attackline in Pep Guardiola’s 4-3-3 formation, Villa was deployed mainly down the wing and played further away from goal than he generally did at Valencia.

And he still produced the goals, sustained the Catalan giants’ aesthetic and poetic football and combined well with his new team-mates.

"Villa is not only there to finish plays. Villa is synonymous with depth. It means always being ready to open passing lanes, to draw defenders and thus freeing space for others."

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Johan Cruyff 

Rated as one of the best strikers in the world, Villa didn’t disappoint after making the move to Camp Nou, smoothly slotting into Guardiola’s scheme. In some ways he was already playing in a similar system for the Spain national team where six of the rest of the other starters against the Netherlands in the World Cup final last summer were Barcelona players.

MOMENT OF THE SEASON

  CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL
BARCELONA 3-1 MAN UNITED
Scored his side's third goal with an absolute stunner from 20 yards out to confirm the Catalan outfit's comprehensive defeat of the English giants at Wembley.
His league debut for Barca against Racing Santander in late August saw him score his team’s third goal in a 3-0 victory and just over a fortnight later he found the target in his first Champions League match for the club in a 5-1 win against Panathinaikos.

Villa’s progress at Barcelona continued as he played the role of a support actor to Messi in front of goal for the first half of the season to perfection, but after the winter break his goals dried up. His work ethic and commitment to help the team win games by sacrificing his self-interest were evident and him breaking Raul’s all-time goals record for Spain against the Czech Republic saw him earn Goal.com’s World Player of the Week award. However, the 29-year-old found the net just once between the first week of March to the middle of May despite playing in 16 competitive matches for Barca during the period.

But all’s well that ends well. Villa rounded up his debut campaign in a Barcelona shirt by scoring the final goal in the Catalan giants’ 3-1 victory over Manchester United in the Champions League final. Receiving the ball outside the penalty box, the former Sporting Gijon star scooped it past Edwin van der Sar,  a fitting culmination of both his and Barca’s season.

"With Lionel Messi generally playing through the middle of a three-pronged attacking line in Pep Guardiola’s 4-3-3 formation, Villa was deployed mainly down the wing but still produced the goals."

Of course, that one goal alone does not eclipse the downward spiral his form underwent in the final three months of the 2010-11 campaign and there were even reports that Barca were looking to sign a younger forward, namely Villarreal’s Giuseppe Rossi. Yet for a player like Villa, who has been one of the best Spain-based strikers since the turn of the century and is as much technical as he is hard working, it is premature to suggest that he is finished.