David Villa has certainly had plenty to smile about in recent years. A key component of Spain’s triumphs at UEFA UERO 2008 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, El Guaje has since shot to the top of La Roja’s all-time top scorers’ list and signed on the dotted line for Catalan giants Barcelona.
With 17 goals and a Spanish Supercup winners’ medal already in the bag following his summer switch from Valencia, the 29-year-old also earned a coveted berth in the FIFA/FIFPro World XI for 2010. In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com that touched on his phenomenal 2010 and Barça’s recipe for success, the Spain No7 showed his desire to improve is as strong as ever, warning ominously that “the best is yet to come”.
FIFA.com: As arguably Barcelona’s biggest-name signing for 2010/11, how have you settled into life at the club?
David Villa: I’ve adapted really well and I think it’s been a positive move for my career. I’ve already won my first title at my new club in the shape of the Spanish Supercup, and things are going pretty well at Barça.
“Pretty well” is quite the understatement when it comes to Barcelona’s displays this campaign. Does it even surprise the players when things click in such spectacular fashion?
No, it all comes down to hard work. The good results we’re getting are thanks to a combination of the players’ immense individual talent, the right preparation and the level of confidence we have. What’s more, we’re really happy to see how much everyone enjoys how we play the game.
From the outside looking in it appears the bond between the players and coach Pep Guardiola is watertight, not only in footballing terms but in the players’ attitude, behaviour and dealings with the media etc. Is that really the case?
You get a bit of everything. But of course this has always been the way Barça do things, it’s nothing new. As well as keeping this footballing philosophy going, the coach has managed to assemble a group of players with some very special characteristics, who’ve adapted and gelled perfectly. Given all that, I think we have what it takes to define an era. I hope that’s the case.
And what’s it like working with Guardiola at close quarters?
He’s a very approachable coach. Not just when it comes to talking football, but he also worries about our personal lives, which can have an impact on you day in day out. It really helps players to be able to focus out on the pitch.
How has he influenced you personally?
He’s been a very positive influence. The coach’s instructions on attacking and defending are clearly vital, and he helps me a lot. One of the things that I’ve been asked to do at Barcelona is to adapt to a change in position and playing style. I feel very comfortable working with him and that’s reflected out on the pitch. I feel at home and perform equally well in the centre or on either flank. I’m very pleased to be getting along so well.
You picked up silverware shortly after signing for Barça, lifted the FIFA World Cup with Spain, moved to the top of La Roja’s scorers’ list and were voted into the FIFA/FIFPro World XI. Was 2010 the best year of your career?
Yes, I think so. In terms of titles and goals it was, although I always say that the best is yet to come. That’s something I believe in! That said, clearly things have gone very well for me in recent years, and I also owe a great deal to my former team-mates at Valencia.
Which was your most memorable moment from last year?
I’d have to say the World Cup Final and the goal by Andres [Iniesta].In fact, make that the whole World Cup.
As you came so close to winning the adidas Golden Boot at South Africa 2010, does the penalty you missed against group opponents Honduras weigh heavily on your mind?
Well, at the time I didn’t know that missing that opportunity would cost me the Golden Boot. But I’m still pleased because I scored five goals that helped La Selección qualify from the group phase and progress through the knockout stages. I’m very proud to be able to do my bit for the national team.
Has becoming a world champion changed your life?
No, we’re still the same people and our personal lives haven’t changed. Of course, more people recognise you out on the street, you get more praise and you get people stopping to congratulate you, but everything else has stayed the same.
Finally, in your opinion, what’s the biggest downside to being a professional footballer?
I’ve dreamed of being a footballer since I was a child so it’s hard to find anything negative. I’ve worked so hard towards making it as a player and dreamed about it so much - it’s wonderful! It’s what you spend your whole life searching for. The only thing I could say is that I miss having a bit more privacy, particularly when I’m out with my family, with my daughters. But anyway, when someone invades your privacy it’s usually because they’ve come over to congratulate you or show you how much they like or admire you, which is really nice too.