New York MLS Team Adds Spanish Striker Villa as First Player

David Villa, the Spanish national team’s all-time leading scorer, became the first player to sign for New York City Football Club, which will join Major League Soccer next season.

Villa, 32, signed a three-season commitment for no transfer fee from Spanish champion Atletico Madrid, NYCFC said today in an e-mailed release. The first player to score 50 goals with the Spanish national team, Villa helped Atletico win its first La Liga title since 1996 in his only season with the team.

“It’s a new country on another continent with a different style of football which is still growing,” Villa said today in Spanish in a video on the MLS website. “I want to try and help MLS continue to grow through playing, working hard and scoring goals, and at the same time try and make New York City become the best team in MLS.”

NYCFC is controlled by English soccer champion Manchester City and will play at the home of part owner New York Yankees. Orlando will also join the league next year, with three more teams, including clubs in Miami and Atlanta, set to be added in 2020, taking the total to 24. MLS Commissioner Don Garber has said he wants MLS, in its 19th season, to be one of the world’s elite leagues by 2022.

“I know David really well; he is one of the best footballers in the world, a true winner and in an outstanding moment of his career,” NYCFC Chief Executive Ferran Soriano said in the release. “I’m sure New Yorkers will enjoy watching him play for their city.”

Villa, who made his national team debut in 2005, scored five goals in Spain’s run to the 2010 World Cup title, tied with two others for most in the 32-team tournament, and scored four times when Spain won the 2008 European Championship. The 5-foot-9 (1.75 meter) striker is on the Spanish roster for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, which starts this month.

Before joining Atletico, Villa played for Barcelona, where he won two La Liga titles and the Champions League. Atletico lost to Real Madrid in the Champions League final two weeks ago.

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