A Villa in Madrid

The transfer activity around Europe is gathering pace with teams in Spain preparing for the start of the new season, and one transfer has surprised many this week.

After the prolonged saga over Radamel Falcao's future was settled early in the summer with the Colombian's big money move to Monaco, Atletico Madrid had turned their attention in recent weeks to replacing El Tigre and his goalscoring prowess.

Despite being linked with a move for Sevilla's Alvaro Negredo, Atletico got their man on Monday with the capture of Spain international David Villa from Barcelona in a cut-price €5.1m deal.

Villa, 31, had long been linked with moves to England with Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal reportedly tracking the former Valencia hitman, but he has chosen to stay in Spain and swap Catalunya for the red and white side of Madrid.

Atletico Madrid president Enrique Cerezo thoroughly believes that Villa can fill the void left by Falcao: “Falcao will be missed, because it isn’t easy to replace a player of his quality, but we think Villa will fill that role exceptionally well.

“Villa has a lot of football left in him. He is a natural-born goal-scorer. For him, we wish the absolute best because he is an important national team player. We hope he scores a load of goals.”

With new signing Neymar expected to feature prominently for Barcelona in the coming season, Villa looked surplus to requirements at Camp Nou, but even so the small transfer fee the Catalans have accepted is especially noteworthy given Barcelona's €40m outlay for Villa back in 2010.

Of course, Neymar's arrival isn't the only reason for the knockdown price. Villa suffered a broken tibia in 2011 and subsequently missed eight months of football, and has only been a bit-part figure for Tito Vilanova's side since his return, with Alexis Sanchez and Pedro the preferred options in attack alongside Lionel Messi. Barcelona's willingness to take such a huge loss on Villa suggested the player's desire to leave and concerns from the club over his long term future.

Despite Villa's injury, he still possesses many of the traits that made him one of the world's deadliest strikers – superb technique, awareness inside the box and finishing ability, even though the lengthy layoff has caused him to lose a yard of pace. Villa still hit double figures in goals despite limited playing time last term, indicating that he will continue to be a threat to opposing defences for some time yet.

The move to Atleti will also see Villa return to his natural position as a centre forward, rather than playing wide as he did for Barca, which should aid his chances of reclaiming a starting position up front for the national team, where Fernando Torres and Roberto Soldado have been preferred in recent times. Villa is Spain's all time record goalscorer with 56, and he will be keen to add more goals to his tally in the coming years.

To do so, Villa needed to be playing on a consistent basis and scoring goals domestically – and despite offers from abroad, Atletico Madrid might just represent his best opportunity.