David Villa has announced that he’s bringing the curtain down on his illustrious playing career next month.
Spain’s all-time leading goalscorer, who currently plies his trade with Vissel Kobe, will end his 19-year career when Japan’s J-League season finishes.
Admitting he’d been thinking about the decision “for a long time”, Villa added: "I wanted to retire from football, not be forced to retire.”
As well as success on the international stage, winning Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup with La Roja, 'El Guaje' (‘The Kid’) also won plenty of silverware at club level with Real Zaragoza, Valencia, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
It was at Barça, during the Pep Guardiola era, where Villa picked up the most winners’ medals. He won La Liga twice, the Champions League, the Copa del Rey, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.
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His second La Liga title came in 2013, under the late Tito Vilanova, who replaced Guardiola the previous summer.
During that season, Villa found himself on the receiving end of Lionel Messi’s wrath during a La Liga fixture against Granada at Camp Nou.
It’s rare to see Messi kick off at a teammate, but the Argentine couldn’t control his temper after the Spanish forward failed to pass him the ball.
Messi spotted a gap in between a couple of defenders but wasn’t picked out by Villa, who instead ended up kicking the ball against an opponent and winning a corner.
This infuriated Barça’s star man, who reacted by arguing with Villa in front of everybody.
In fairness to Villa, he gave as good as he got, although he looked a bit shocked by Messi’s reaction.
Watch their altercation here... (click play on the black video window).
This incident happened on the stroke of half-time, with the scores level at 0-0. Villa was substituted in the 53rd minute for Pedro and Barça went on to record a 2-0 victory thanks to an 87th-minute Xavi strike and a late Borja Gomez own goal.
This would also prove to be Villa’s final season at Camp Nou before the Catalan club sold him to Atletico for just €5.1 million.
Messi played down the incident after the match, telling reporters, per The 42: “Do not look for problems where there are none. Villa and I get along very well, it was just normal banter during games.”
Vilanova added: “Whoever plays football knows discussions are a normality, and part of the game.
“Such occurrences are common signs that a team is alive. Not exchanging views for betterment would honestly suggest worse.”
But there was a feeling at the time that this moment was the beginning of the end for Villa at Barça.
Spanish journalist Graham Hunter, per 101 Great Goals, said at the time: “For what it’s worth I think Messi made a minor error in having a pop at Villa in that way.
“To me it’s not a biggie but given that Villa is just back after months out and cannot be at his sharpest it was a brutal call to lose temper over that. It would have taken an instinctive first time pass of the very highest order for any player to feed Messi’s run.
“The angle was on, Messi saw the opportunity but he’s a genius who’s not been out for close to a year. He and Villa have had their moments because Messi wants the ball all the time. What’s more, Villa has had to sacrifice a lot positionally.”
He added: “These are the everyday clashes of a football training ground and occasionally a match. They happen. But so publicly in a match like this, given Villa’s first start since December I thought it was a little error of judgement. Like the fact that Villa gave it back. Messi said ‘Give me it first time, first time….’ Villa’s point was ‘you weren’t there for the first time ball.’ They’ve had this discussion in private, often.”News Now - Sport News