As Barcelona’s players begin to return to pre-season training this week, one player keener than most to is David Villa. It has been a long and lonely road for Villa since he fractured his left tibia during the FIFA Club World Cup in December 2011. Forced to sit on the sidelines as Barcelona battled for La Liga and Champions League supremacy, the former Valencia striker endured considerable transfer speculation linking him with a move to various clubs in England.
As Barcelona’s season drew to an ultimately disappointing end, so did the hopes of Spain’s record goalscorer for making his return at Euro 2012. It was always ambitious to hope for a return to full fitness and match sharpness within five months of a leg break, but his commitment in carrying out his rehabilitation programme had raised expectations. Despite his absence, the forward was nevertheless delighted with the success of his teammates in Poland and Ukraine.
“We have to be very proud of this team,” he enthused. “You might play better or worse, but this team always gives its best. They are the only ones who have been able to run three big titles together – no one else has managed this up to now.”
Most players are wary of returning to pre-season training after a summer break, but having suffered the first major injury of his career, the 30-year-old has been desperate to get back involved.
“This is the summer when I have been longing for the holidays to end so that I can get going. It is the summer which I have least enjoyed. I really want the holidays to end. It might sound a bit meaningless, but it is how I feel,” he said.
“I'm fine. I'll get through the tests with the Barcelona doctors. I really want to go back to training normally, with my teammates, and not on my own.”
As it became clear that Barcelona had become overly reliant on Lionel Messi, the rumours linking Villa with a move away from Camp Nou dissipated. Incoming Coach Tito Vilanova is likely to place a key role on the attacker who thrives most in the channel between right-back and centre-half. Such a role should bring out the best in Messi and allow space for former Valencia teammate and new signing Jordi Alba to overlap. Following a difficult seven months, Villa will relish the opportunity to end his road to recovery.