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David Villa Will Leave New York City F.C.

Category: Football,Sports

David Villa, the Spanish World Cup winner who in 2014 became New York City F.C.’s first player, said on Wednesday that he would leave the club when his contract expired at the end of the year.

Villa, a striker, scored 80 goals in 124 appearances for the team and was Major League Soccer’s most valuable player in 2016. Over four seasons, much of it spent as New York City F.C.’s captain, he provided the steadying hand that allowed the expansion club to establish itself in M.L.S.

Villa, who will turn 37 on Monday, confirmed in a video posted to his social media accounts that he plans to continue playing. He said he would reveal his next destination “in a few days.”

“The reason is that my mind and my body need another challenge,” Villa said. “And I feel it is the perfect time now to say bye to N.Y.C.F.C.”

Several reports on Wednesday hinted that Villa could join his former Spain teammates Fernando Torres and Andrés Iniesta in Japan’s J1 League.

Villa has been the one constant in New York City F.C.’s history, signing as the club’s first player in June 2014 — so early in its history that the team did not even have an official jersey to use at his unveiling. Villa quickly became a cornerstone player, leading the team in goals in each of his first four seasons, though that success often petered out in the postseason.

New York City F.C. missed the playoffs in its debut season but, behind Villa’s rising goals totals, qualified in the next three, falling in the conference semifinals each time. Through its growing pains — three coaches in four season, the forgettable signing of the English midfielder Frank Lampard and most recently two leg injuries this season that cost Villa weeks at a time — Villa served as the team’s stabilizing force.

“I remember the first day I showed the jersey, and the supporters were there,” Villa said in a statement released by the team. “I would have liked to give the supporters the M.L.S. Cup, but I don’t have any doubts that in the next years the club will get it for sure.”

Villa was M.L.S.’s most valuable player in 2016, when he finished second in the league in goals. (He was second again a year later, and tied for eighth this year.) He was chosen as an all-star in each of his four seasons in New York, though he missed this year’s game with an injury.

“David has been an incredible ambassador and captain to this club since the moment we signed him,” the team’s sporting director, Claudio Reyna, said, adding, “I truly believe that David will be remembered as one of the best players to ever play in M.L.S.”


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