Villa, a thriller

David Villa... a fine team player.-AP

David Villa has taken to international football like a duck to water. He has a fine strike rate and has shone at the 2006 World Cup, scoring twice against Ukraine in his first appearance at the tournament. He has since been the top-scorer in Spain’s Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, writes Andy Hampson.

David Villa is a potent striker, rated as one of the most lethal finishers in Europe, who has been linked with some of the game’s biggest clubs in recent seasons. He boasts of a fine all-round game having pace, fine passing and technical ability and a fearsome shot with both feet. He is one of the biggest stars of Spain’s Primera Liga.

Villa, the son of a miner, was born in Langreo in the Asturias region of northern Spain. He first played football with local club Union Popular de Langreo before being taken on by Sporting Gijon as a teenager. Yet the Villa story almost never happened after he badly broke his leg at the age of four. Doctors wanted to operate but warned there was a chance he could end up crippled for life. His parents chose not to risk surgery and fortunately the bone healed well.

Villa broke into the Gijon first team in 2000-2001 and made a stunning impression, scoring 41 goals in his first two seasons for the Second Division team.

In 2003 Real Zaragoza swooped to sign him for 2.87million euros (GBP2 million) and Villa was far from fazed by the step up in class. He netted 17 goals in his first season, 15 in the following campaign and earned international recognition, prompting Valencia to splash out 11.5million euros (GBP8 million) for his services.

He made a phenomenal impact at the Mestalla, scoring 25 of his team’s 58 goals in his first season and finishing just one behind the Primera Liga’s top marksman, Samuel Eto’o of Barcelona. He created many of the others, proving himself a fine team player.

He has continued in much the same vein since and has been linked with Liverpool and Chelsea at various times but the buy-out clause in his contract is thought to be around 120million euros (GBP83 million).

Villa has also taken to international football like a duck to water. He has a fine strike rate and has shone at the World Cup in Germany last year, scoring twice against Ukraine in his first appearance at the tournament. He has since been the top-scorer in Spain’s Euro 2008 qualifying campaign.

Villa has been married to Patricia since 2003. They have a daughter, Zaida, who is two years old.

Villa has admitted he came close to giving up the game at the age of 14 after growing disillusioned and falling out with his coach. However, it was through the encouragement of his parents that he continued after realising his talent could earn him a living in the game.

“In those days I was a nobody, not earning a penny and after being made to sit on the bench all season I just wanted to get away and play with my mates,” he said. “But my dad always supported me and cheered me up until my career turned round.”

Villa is far less conspicuous than other football stars when it comes to the celebrity lifestyle but he certainly lacks nothing when it comes to cars. He owns an impressive Porsche Cayenne, the sought-after off-roader with the power of a sportscar.

FACTFILE Name: David Villa Position: Striker Club: Valencia DOB: 03/12/1983 Spain caps: 23 Spain goals: 13 Spain debut: v San Marino, February 2005. Moment to remember

Among Villa’s scoring feats is a stunning five-minute hat-trick against Atletico Bilbao in April last year. His remarkable second-half effort at San Mames dramatically changed the game and secured a 3-0 win. The victory kept Barcelona waiting longer to clinch the league title.

Moment to forget

After his blistering start against Ukraine, Villa looked set to be one of the stars of the World Cup last year. He netted three goals in total but his hopes of more were dashed as infamous under-achievers Spain failed to make the progress to justify their talent yet again. Villa fired Spain into the lead in their last-16 clash with France but a Zinedine Zidane-inspired Les Bleus struck back to win 3-1.

@ PA Sport, 2007, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, re-written, re-distributed or commercially exploited. Sportstar is not responsible for any inaccuracy in the material.