Monday, November 20, 2017

Why Valencia shouldn't (and won't) bring David Villa back

Let's get the obvious out of the way first: David Villa is a club legend on a par with Mario Kempes. His goals kept Valencia as a force to be reckoned with even when the club was struggling financially and most of us probably felt totally gutted when the news broke that he was on his way to FC Catalonia.

With Rafa Mir refusing to sign a new contract and on his way out, Valencia only has 3 main strikers, plus Guedes, who can play there in an emergency and Zaza's knee condition has been causing concern for at least a month. Luckily for us, it flared up during international breaks, meaning that he didn't miss any games, however, he was in visible pain when scoring against Betis. Marcelino previously stated that just resting Zaza wouldn't solve the problem. He will require some form of surgery. The problem for the club is that that could mean him missing a significant period of time, maybe 6-8 matches. As a result, the club confirmed today that they are going to postpone such surgery for the time being and hope that the situation doesn't worsen. This is a gamble not without its own risks as if the tear worsens, Zaza could be out for far longer, but Simone has been so key to the team that the club is unwilling to risk the momentum built up by managing without him. That's caused the issue of a backup striker to rise up the agenda again.

That's led many fans, such as in the comments section of the last match report to suggest the solution: Villa returns to Valencia, during the MLS mid-season break. The idea isn't without merit. He's been playing well in the MLS, earning a return to the Spain squad as a result. Adoring fans would give him lots of leeway and ticket sales and sales of merchandise would increase. For me, Villa will always be welcome back to the Mestalla, but in a different role. Coach, club ambassador, whatever, but just not as a player.

There are numerous reasons why. To start with, retreads can be hit and miss and sometimes and the whole exercise can just backfire. But from footballing and logistic reasons it doesn't make sense either. Villa hasn't played in Europe for 3 and a half years and the standard of football in the MLS is far lower than Europe. Had he been in his early 30s, I'd have been interested, but he's 36 next month and after so much time out of the bigger leagues, it's asking a lot to return to one of the world's top two leagues.

His age also raises other concerns as well. His injury history is impressive, but he is at a stage of his career now where he will be more prone to injuries. If we are covering possible injuries to existing strikers, then bringing in a much older striker doesn't seem wise. Most importantly, the player himself has consistently ruled out a return to Valencia or Europe, doing so in September 2016, December 2016 and again today.

But the main reason is a logistical one, the fact that La Liga and the MLS seasons are out of sync. The MLS season runs from 1 March until 30 September, with pre-season starting about 5 to 6 weeks before that, around 20-22 January. Why would New York agree to hand over their player so he can get tired out in the 2 months before their league season starts and miss pre-season training? Why would Valencia take a player knowing they'd have to return him in late February? Such a deal wouldn't make sense for either club.

Valencia does need to think seriously about bringing another striker in, at the very minimum on loan until the end of the season. Villa, for all the reasons listed above does not fit the requirements and would be an exercise in nostalgia, not football reality.

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