When Barcelona splashed €40 million on Valencia talisman David Villa in 2010 many saw this as a necessary signing given Thierry Henry and Zlatan Ibrahimovic left the club, with Barca landing one of the best strikers in the world. In his first season the Spaniard did not disappoint scoring 23 times including a cracking effort in the 2011 Champions League final to leave Barca fans wanting more. However, all has not gone according to plan as the Barcelona forward nears the end of his third season at the club.
Villa faces the biggest challenge of his illustrious career at the moment as he fights to overcome injury and regain the form that once made him one of the best strikers on the planet. Last season was a one to forget as he broke his leg and missed Euro 2012 as a consequence, and has come back this season to register 12 goals in 26 appearances in all competitions.
This is not the David Villa of old who was able to use his blistering pace to make inch perfect runs to open up defences or the David Villa who seemingly could find the back of the net from any angle or distance. This is not the David Villa who scored five times in the 2010 World Cup to lead Spain to glory. This is not the David Villa we know and admire.
This David Villa of 2013 is a player who is on his last legs and is entering the twilight years of his career. He may not even make it to Brazil 2014 when he will be 32. Of course it would be foolish to write him off given his track record, but invariably all great players wind down when age catches up to them. Serious injuries only quicken the process. With this in mind, this raises a question. Has Villa been worth €40 million?
Some may say yes, pointing to the Champions League triumph in 2011 where he played an integral role in winning the final, but besides that has Villa really justified the price tag? Probably not.
In many ways Villa suffering a broken leg in late 2011 was the moment that marked the end of his prime playing days. At 30, suffering such a serious injury would be hard for anyone to comeback from. Villa has made a valiant effort but there’s no doubt he has returned as a less dominant player.
In a remarkable statistic, Villa played at least 40 times from the 2001/2002 season to 2010/2011. Durability was certainly not an issue and injuries were certainly not holding him back. But given all those gruelling amount of games over a ten year period any considerable injury, let alone a broken leg would have had big ramifications for Villa.
Barcelona will have felt that splashing the necessary cash on a proven star, even to the tune of €40 million, was justified given the exodus of strikers and relative disappointment of the 2009/2010 season. However, signing the 29-year-old for such a price has somewhat backfired given he has no resale value and is not part of Barcelona's long term future.
There is no denying Villa was an exceptional player. He still has plenty to offer now as his intelligent movement and killer instinct in the area is still as sharp as ever, but the magic and consistency that was exhibited for Valencia and Spain during the 2000s, is no longer there. That was what set him apart and commanded such an astronomical price tag.
Villa's time at Barcelona has not been a failure by any stretch of the imagination, but the Catalan club would have expected more considering the transfer fee. His injury has not helped, and who knows he may still be one of the best strikers today if not for the injury, but the fact of the matter is that he has not been worth €40 million. At the time of the signing, yes he was, but have Barcelona been smart to sign an ageing star for that much? An investment of that magnitude would demand some long term vision. That is afforded by signing a young player, but not for someone who is almost 30.
Barcelona have spent big in the transfer window in recent years. Thierry Henry (€24 million), Dani Alves (€32 million), Dymytro Chygrynskiy (€25 million), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (€60 million) Cesc Fabregas (35 million) and Alexis Sanchez (€35 million) to name a few. Half of them have backfired spectacularly, and whilst Villa is a different case it gives the Blaugrana food for thought for the future to spend more wisely when dealing with big sums of money.
Has he or has he not justified his price tag? It all depends on which angle you see it from. There have been extenuating circumstances for Villa, but judging him purely on his almost three seasons at Camp Nou you would have to say he has not shown the qualities expected of him for the whole duration of his stint so far and thus has not justified the transfer fee.
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