When Barcelona added David Villa from Valencia in 2010, they knew it wasn’t going to be a deal they’ll benefit from for more than a few seasons, and still, his departure to Atletico Madrid is followed by a taste of missing out on something greater with Barca, and eventually, ending up as a slightly disappointing figure.
There are three seasons to the David Villa experience at the Nou Camp, and each of them completely different. Barcelona signed Villa before the 2010 World Cup, beating out Real Madrid to the best Spanish striker, and someone that after the World Cup, leading Spain to the trophy and scoring five goals, was regarded as possibly the best in the world.
He cost €40 million, and was added to the strike-force that lost Zlatan Ibrahimovic, although no one was truly sad about his departure. While scoring more than 20 goals a season like he usually did for Valencia wasn’t completely necessary, it’s hard to say it wasn’t expected of him, and after a slow start, Villa made sure no one would have a chance to complain about his production.
He scored 18 goals in the league, including two in his first El Clasico, the one which Barcelona won 5-0. He finished the season with the third goal in the 3-1 win against Manchester United, winning the Champions League, and also meant Villa has now won everything possible for club & country.
His start to the 2011-2012 season was slow, and had only 5 goals in the first 15 matches and not doing much better in European competition. The long travel to Japan as Barcelona played for the Club World Cup also meant the end of the season for him, breaking his tibia in the semifinal, missing the rest of the season and Euro 2012, which Spain won without him.
The season that recently ended was marked as the comeback year, for him and Barcelona. The season in which they’ll bring back their lost titles: League and Champions League, slowly integrating Villa back into the lineup, and providing the box presence everyone said Barcelona were missing as they were knocked out by Chelsea in the Champions League and lost the title to Real Madrid.
But Villa, who ended up scoring 10 league goals in 28 matches, was never the same player. There were short moments that seemed like the old Villa, but Vilanova never used him consistently, and the same pattern continued with Roura while Vilanova was getting cancer treatment. The falling out with Lionel Messi didn’t help, although it’s not quite clear how much that affected Villan’s chances of playing.
The garbage time of the season gave him a chance to score some goals and get some starts, but everyone knew it was a swan song. The offers from the Premier League were coming in for quite some time, but Villa preferred to remain in Spain, possibly thinking about a team that will give him a better chance of playing time. Atletico Madrid, after selling Falcao, seem to be the right fit for him.
Despite winning two league titles and the Champions League, Villa should and could have done more for Barcelona. Yes, it was probably the injury that ruined the impression of his three seasons at the club, but for one of the greatest finishers of his generation and one of the more expensive signings Barcelona have ever made, 48 goals in 116 matches simply aren’t enough.