There are a lot of crappy things about living in New York. The crowded subway trains, the cramped and expensive apartments, the fact that it’s still snowing in mid-March. (Seriously, wtf, weather?)
But every once in a while you get to do something really, really cool. Like last night, when I found myself talking to Spain’s all-time leading goal scorer, David Villa, at a UEFA Champions League party presented by Heineken. (Up until then, Villa was just a guy I watched bang home goal after goal on my television set, usually while sporting perfectly spiked hair and a flavor saver, which somehow looks more distinguished when you’re Spanish.)
Villa has won just about every major trophy a soccer player can win—for La Liga, Euro Cup, World Cup and Champions League titles—and he’s now starring for New York City Football Club in Major League Soccer. (In fact, just this Sunday he scored a pretty impressive goal for his new club, then delivered a beautiful pass to a teammate for the game-winner.) But if you ever meet him, you’ll probably be surprised by how small he is. He’s listed at 5’9” and I’d say that’s being generous. (Soccer players. They’re just like us. Except smaller. And quicker. And excellent at soccer.)
Anyway, I didn’t get a ton of time with him—he had to head downstairs to get his picture taken with the Champions League trophy—but here’s what I was able to ask him, with the help of a friendly interpreter.
Will Major League Soccer ever be the best soccer league in the world, and if so, when?
I’m absolutely certain it will. How long will it take? Well, that will obviously take time. The league is only 20 years old. It’s still growing. The current best leagues in the world have been in place for many, many years. But it will get there.
What does the US need to do to win a World Cup? Other than continue to use German players.
Well, I think the US national team will have to keep evolving and growing. Right along with MLS. If MLS keeps growing, I’m sure the national team will benefit from it. But it will also take time. You only have to look at Spain. In Spain, having the best league in the world, you can see how many years it took us to win our only World Cup. So it takes time to have a good generation of players.
Also, you have phenomenal hair. What is your secret?
Ha ha. Genetics. Good roots from my mom and my dad.
What’s the greatest goal of your career?
I don’t know if it was the best but it was definitely the most important one—the one I scored in the Champions League final. Due to the scenario of it being a final, that’s definitely the most important one of my career.
And which team do you like in this year’s Champions League tournament?
I think the three Spanish teams, Atlético Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona, have a good chance. Bayern Munich, with Pep Guardiola as their manager, could win it. We’ll see. It’s difficult to predict. But I’m sure the team that gets to the final and wins it will have earned it.