Villa and Ronaldo: A tale of two sevens

Spain's David Villa celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the round of 16 match against Portugal.

Spain's David Villa celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the round of 16 match against Portugal.  

A flash of a Spanish boot and a dash of Portuguese saliva on a chilly Cape Town evening summed up the contrasting fortunes of two of the World Cup’s most-prominent number sevens.

Cristiano Ronaldo appeared to spit at the feet of a cameraman after Spain’s 1-0 victory over Portugal in the round of 16 on Tuesday sent the former World Player of the Year packing. It was a phlegm full-stop on a campaign in which the superstar shone as brightly as a cheap plastic torch with leaky batteries.

Spain’s David Villa, on the other hand, is in danger of going supernova.

The 28-year-old is joint top scorer at the World Cup with four goals — representing 80 per cent of Spain’s tally so far — and will continue to tussle with Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuain for the Golden Boot.

Only a fool would bet against the miner’s son becoming Spain’s all-time top scorer — quite possibly at this tournament.

He has already scored 42 goals in 62 appearances for his country, two behind Raul, and was top scorer at the 2008 European Championships as Spain cast aside years of underachievement to triumph.

Villa, known as “The Kid” in the language spoken in his home region of Asturias, has been equally prolific throughout his club career at Real Zaragoza and Valencia.

The player himself is low-key — unlike Ronaldo, you do not see him fronting countless advertising campaigns — and dismissive of the praise heaped upon him.

“With teammates like that, everything is easier,” he said as he left Green Point stadium on Friday. “We have 23 players who could play for any national team, but we are lucky to have them with us.”

Villa has a point considering Spain can call on quality players such as his new Barcelona teammate Xavi Hernandez while leaving the likes of Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas on the bench. But the Spanish media is in no doubt about his worth — especially considering the below-par performances of golden boy Fernando Torres in South Africa.

“Villa, like few people in front of goal, is a goldmine, or even better, an oilfield on his own,” Spanish daily El Pais wrote of him.

Ironically, some of Villa’s prowess may be down to a childhood accident that could have prevented him playing at all.

At the age of four, Villa broke his right leg. But even in plaster he refused to stop playing football. His father taught him to kick with his weaker left leg, making him just as comfortable with the ball at either foot.

This coupled with his movement, touch and finishing, makes him one of the most-deadly strikers in the game — which is why Barcelona lashed out 40 million euros (49.1 million dollars) for his services next season.

Villa’s move raises the prospect of a longer-term battle with Ronaldo, who plays for the Catalan side’s deadly rivals Real Madrid.

But first Ronaldo will have to shake off the pain of captaining a Portugal side that showed little imagination in attack; aside from the 7-0 thumping of North Korea, they failed to score in their three other games.

“I am completely devastated, frustrated and feel an unimaginable sadness,” he said in a statement on the website of Gestifute, owned by his agent.

It would be unfair to lay the blame for the poor international performances solely at the feet of Ronaldo.

At Manchester United, he prospered in an attacking line-up backed by world-class players, but Portugal boss Carlos Queiroz plays a self-confessed “pragmatic” game, with an emphasis on packing his own half and counter-attacking.

After the game, Ronaldo told reporters to ask Queiroz to explain the defeat, but later denied this was intended as criticism.

“When I said put the question to the coach, it is just because Carlos Queiroz was holding a press conference,” he said. “I am a human being, and like any human being I suffer and I have the right to suffer alone.”

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 4:00:32 AM |

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