June 2, 2014
THE PERFECT FIT
Why NYC FC decided to make David Villa its first signing
By Michael Lewis
|NYC FC management felt it could not have found a better fit than David Villa as its first signing.
Photo courtesy of NYC FC
Several times during Monday's conference call detailing the first signing of New York City FC Monday, the words perfect and fit came up describing striker David Villa.
For example, NYC FC director of football operations Claudio Reyna said the Spanish international was "the perfect first signing."
For example, head coach Jason Kreis called the 32-year-old dynamo the "exact right fit" to start building the team.
NYC FC started building its team by signing Villa to a three-year deal.
"It was very important that we had the right person, the right character to be the right launching pad on the field," Reyna said during the call. "David is the perfect person. He's humble, he's hard-working. He's very committed to this. He had many opportunities and options. He is very, very excited about being one of the leaders of this team.
"When you have three designated players, you have to make sure they are the right ones on and off the field and David just ticked all the boxes. We always wanted to sign a player who can score goals, create goals, lead the line up front, be a leader."
Villa's resume is virtually unparalleled. He is only the fourth MLS player to have performed for a World Cup champion, following in the footsteps of the New York/New Jersey MetroStars' Lothar Matthaeus (West Germany), the eRed Bulls' Thierry Henry (France), and Philadelphia Union's Kleberson (Brazil), having excelled for Spain in the 2010 World Cup as co-joint leading goal-scorer with four goals. He also is Spain's all-time goal-scoring leader with 56 goals and played for a UEFA Champions League champion with Barcelona.
That's the short list of his accomplishments.
Making Villa the first player signing will allow the club to start building the team -- around him.
"It's almost impossible to think about the puzzle and how you're going to put it all together until you get one name down," Kreis said. "Now you've got one name down and all of a sudden you start to think about two or three around him. Then you've got four or five. Then you think about four or five around each of those. Pretty soon you've got a squad."
Playing in New York can crush a player or it can propel him to yet another orbit. Reyna felt that Villa has the proper qualifies and was well, the perfect fit, considering his background and accomplishments.
"David has played at the highest level with the highest among of pressure that you can have at the club he has played at, the national team that he has represented," said Reyna, who grew in the shadow of the city in Springfield, N.J. "He was not going to shy away from this challenge as being a critical piece of our team. You could see that right away. There was no doubt in my mind that he could handle any pressure in any big city. In Spain he is very, very well known as a forward. There is so much pressure to score and deliver and he has had to deal with it on multiple clubs throughout his career. We're very confident he can deal with the pressure."
Kreis, who said he was impressed with Villa's performance in Atletico Madrid's loss to Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final last month, said he did not base his evaluation of the forward on any one game.
"You look at the collection of David Villa's work," he said. "You can see somebody is part of as many winning teams as him, you know there has to be something special about that individual. You can think about some of the guys in U.S. Soccer and MLS that have won so many things. You can't quite put your finger on what that is, but you know you want them to be part of your team.
"So when you look at David Villa and the number of things that he has won, right away, you say 'Wait a second, I've got to have this guy on our team. You start to look at the individual performances that he has put out there, the collective number of goals that he has scored and how hard he is willing to work for his teammates when his team doesn't have the ball. All that adds up to me to be the exact right fit for the very first signing for New York City FC."
Villa has a history of giving opposing defenders and goalkeepers fits, and if he wants to do that in MLS next season, he will have to keep fit between now and then.
After Spain is finished with the World Cup in either June or July, he will need a club to keep his fitness. No, that club won't be Manchester City, which owns NYC FC, Reyna said.
"The most important thing is that he will be ready for 2015 and we know that he will be," Reyna said. "He'll be playing some games, but we can't reveal just yet where they will be."
Signing someone of Villa's stature will allow NYC FC to get some sort of a foothold in a city that demands stars and superstars on its sports teams.
"It means all good things as we continue to build the franchise in New York City," Chief Business Officer Tim Pernetti said. "As we've said before, with a marketplace and as many options as people have in New York City, you have to work hard to differentiate yourself in the market."
Pernetti added that Villa's acquisition has "given our fans ... our level of seriousness about making this a successful franchise in New York. This matches up in every way with the DNA."
David Villa's DNA seems to have the perfect fit for NYC FC.