Vilanova rules out Villa departure
Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has reiterated that striker David Villa will not be leaving the Catalan club.
The Spain striker has been linked with a move away from the Camp Nou after finding first-team opportunities limited this season following his recover from a serious leg injury, with Arsenal one of the clubs believed to be interested in the 31-year-old. However, Barça have consistently dismissed suggestions Villa could be sold during the January transfer window and Vilanova repeated that stance following his side's 3-1 victory over Malaga last night.
He told reporters: "David is not going to leave. We are very happy with him."
Villa scored a brace in last week's 5-0 Copa del Rey win over Cordoba but limped out of the match late on and then picked up a hamstring injury in training on Saturday which ruled him out of the trip to Malaga. Spain's record goalscorer missed much of last season and UEFA EURO 2012 after breaking his leg at the FIFA Club World Cup in December, 2011.
Vilanova added: "The other day he scored two goals. We've always said that he's coming off a long injury, and he's getting more minutes all the time. But he's suffering more physical problems again. We know how important he is, like last year when we missed him a lot in the second half of the season. I'm convinced he will help us a lot over the remainder of the season."
Vilanova also urged his players not to ease up after seeing them complete a record-breaking first half of the Liga season with a 3-1 victory over Malaga. No team in history have boasted more points at the midway stage of a top-flight season in Spain after last night's triumph at La Rosaleda left Barca with a remarkable 55 points from a possible 57.
The victory also left them 11 points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid at the top of the standings and a massive 18 points ahead of reigning champions and arch rivals Real Madrid in third. However, Vilanova, who again sat on the Barça bench while he continues his battle against cancer, is determined not to let his players rest on their laurels.
He said: "It's fantastic but we can't stop here. We are not invincible. Everything we've achieved up until now is thanks to the effort we've put in and our eagerness to win. The day we don't play at a high level is the day we lose."
On the possibility of continuing their stunning form throughout the whole campaign, Vilanova admitted: "It wouldn't be normal. There is the Champions League and the Copa del Rey...we need to go to Atletico, to Madrid. It was unthinkable to have this advantage at the start of the season."