Into the Calderón caught up recently with David Villa for a conversation about his time at Atlético Madrid and what he has been up to since helping los Colchoneros to an incredible league title in 2013/14. The former Spain international — La Furia Roja’s all-time leading goalscorer — is now in his third season at Major League Soccer’s New York City FC, where he is club captain and the reigning MLS MVP.
Into the Calderón: What do you recall about the process that led to your departure from Barcelona and your transfer to Atlético Madrid?
David Villa: It was hard to leave Barcelona, but in that moment I wasn’t playing much and I wanted to have more minutes. Signing for Atlético was an easy decision because I wanted to be happy on the field.
ItC: What did you experience in your first days at Atlético that you maybe had not experienced before?
DV: The first days at Atlético were incredible. I was very happy because I wasn’t expecting to see the fans get so excited for my signing. From the first day I received a very warm welcome, not only in the streets but also in social media. I remember the day I was introduced to the fans as an Atlético de Madrid player at the stadium and a lot of people came to welcome me. It was very special to me.
ItC: What is your favorite moment from the 2013/14 season?
DV: The day we won La Liga, especially the moment the referee blew the whistle to end the game. La Liga is a very difficult title to win, because it goes all year long and you need to be very regular [in picking up points]. We lost some points during the last month, but we won it and that was my happiest moment at Atlético.
ItC: Entering that final game against Barcelona at Camp Nou, all Atleti needed was a single point to lift a first title since 1996. What was the buildup to that game, and how nervous were you and your teammates?
DV: We prepared the game knowing that it was like a final. That felt like a real final, because it was the last game of the season and both teams could have won it. We prepared it thinking that we needed to win the game even though a tie could have been enough. But that’s always the best way to get the result.
ItC: Was it at all strange to celebrate a league title at Camp Nou while playing for a team other than Barça?
DV: I would have preferred to win the title at another stadium because I would have celebrated it with more energy. I was very happy because we won the title, but at the same time I had to respect the Barcelona fans because they were always good to me when I played for them.
ItC: At the 2014 World Cup, you were in the same team as Diego Costa, Juanfran and Koke, all of whom played in a World Cup for the first time that summer. Did you get a chance to talk to them about what representing Spain is like?
DV: I am not a person who gives advice to people unless they ask me. But when they do, I talk to them about my past experiences as a player. During those first days, they wanted to know how it was to play in a World Cup. I told them that it is a very unique experience that they will never forget.
ItC: At NYCFC, you've become club captain and MLS MVP. What is special about football in the United States?
DV: The playoffs system is very attractive. I have never experienced it before because in Europe it doesn’t exist, but I really like it. The playoffs make the league better because more teams have the chance to win the title. In Europe, only three or four teams can win it during the last months, and here even 12 teams have a chance at the end.
ItC: What is your relationship currently like with Atlético?
DV: I stay in touch with my Atlético teammates. In every team that I played for, players, coaches and staff leave over time, but I like stay in touch with them.
ItC: What do Atlético need to do to at last win the Champions League?
DV: They have to keep doing the same [things they’ve done], because the two finals that Atlético lost were very close. I was on the field in one of them and we lost it in the last 20 seconds, and the second final Atlético lost in PKs. In soccer, the little details are very important. Atlético are very close to winning that first Champions League.