David Villa stands alone in a class by himself. (Brad Penner – USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
BRONX — During his post-game fathering with the media, David Villa wanted to make something perfectly clear:
Reports of him not returning to New York City FC for the 2019 Major League Soccer season was fake news.
Honest, he said fake news.
Villa, the talisman of the expansion team since it kicked its first competitive ball in 2015, said this wasn’t the time for him to address his contract situation, especially after City’s entertaining and thrilling 1-1 draw with the Red Bulls Wednesday night.
Yet, he still addressed it — to a point.
His contract with NYCFC — he will earn $5.61 million, according to the MLS Players Union, runs out after this season.
“This is not the moment to talk about this, but I want to put this [behind me] because first of all, this is fake news,” he said.
Villa then broke into a big smile while the media contingent around him laughed.
“I should take another word,” he said.
But he didn’t.
“This is fake news,” he said. “Every time I tell you with the people of the club, people of the City Group, people of the team, they always showed me that they want me here forever. I can’t be here forever as a player. This is not the moment. I don’t care about the contract.
“Tomorrow if I sign the contract of five years with NYCFC, and I don’t feel good, I go out. This isn’t the moment to talk about this. At the moment, I have good feelings after the injury. I try to play well. I will try to help my team. and we’ll see in December.”
Villa, who missed eight games due to a knee injury, has scored two goals in his last three matches since returning to the lineup. That included the 52nd-minute equalizer in which forward Jo Inge Berget laid the ball off to the Spanish international with a header and Villa powered an 18-yard shot with his left foot past goalkeeper Luis Robles for a 1-1 tie.
The draw actually felt more like a victory for the homeside, which was forced to play at least a man down for more than half the match thanks to red cards in the 40th and 72nd minutes.
Still, City showed great fortitude and played with intensity despite being short-handed.
“We talked at halftime that we needed a lot of effort from the two strikers because we had one player out,” Villa said. “We needed to be the majority of time closer to their box and not close to our box, because with one player less if we are close to our box they can score because they have good players in the attacking side. And we can do it, the first few minutes we start like this with Jo. Maxi [Moralez] put the ball to Joe, he set [it up], and I can score.”
The goal was Villa’s 10th of the season, the fourth time he has scored in double digits for NYCFC.
The 2010 World Cup winner has set the gold standard of a designated player. Not only has he produced, he has led by example, pouring every ounce of his blood, sweat and tears into his seemingly endless effort to make life miserable for opposing defenders and goalkeepers.
Whether Villa will continue to do that for NYCFC in 2019 and beyond, it remains to be seen. At that moment, any report of him not returning is fake news.
One thing is certain: David Villa is the real thing.