Villa signing a huge boost for A-League

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Well done, Melbourne City, you have raised the bar.

Today’s announcement that Spanish superstar David Villa will play a 10-game ‘guest’ stint in the A-League at the start of next season has understandably got people giddy at a time when all focus really should be on the World Cup.

However, the magnitude of the signing, technically a loan deal, is so big that it has fans of all clubs buzzing at the prospect of seeing the World Cup and European Championship winner on these shores.

At 32 years of age, the former Barcelona striker was confirmed as New York City FC’s first ever player on Monday, with the new franchise set to join Major League Soccer for the 2015 season.

However, there was a problem – how could a player of Villa’s stature and ability keep up his match fitness until March of next year?

Well, with Melbourne City now owned by the same group as Premier League champions Manchester City and NYCFC, a deal was brokered for Villa to spend some time in Australia.

Yep, that’s right, Spain’s all-time record goalscorer will be running around the league between October and December.

Not all the reaction to the move has been positive though, with some naysayers of the opinion that the league is simply being used and such a move belittles the competition. Well, to put it bluntly, those people are idiots.

While it is understandable for fans of rival clubs to not want another team to be successful, the bigger picture needs to be considered in a similar way to when Alessandro Del Piero joined Sydney FC two years ago.

Del Piero sold shirts, spent time with kids and was generally a top notch ambassador for the A-League, even if his performances went downhill towards the end.

The Italian was 37 when he moved to Sydney and hadn’t played for the national team since 2008.

On the other hand, Villa is coming off the back of a title-winning season with Atletico Madrid in La Liga, played in the Champions League Final less than a fortnight ago and is in the Spanish squad for the World Cup

He is arguably an even bigger capture, even if it is only for a short period of time, and the response to today’s news should once and for all end the debate over whether clubs should persist with marquee-style signings.

Interest in Villa’s performances should come from Spain as well as the US, thus providing the A-League some new followers in largely untapped markets.

The challenge now is for the powers that be to ensure that the fixture list makes the most of having Villa around, and City should play games in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Wellington during his ten games here.

You may have noticed that I have been referring to ‘Melbourne City’ and that’s because the long-talked-about rebranding of Melbourne Heart has finally taken place.

City will wear a predominately white Nike shirt with a sky blue and navy stripe, almost a carbon copy of parent club Manchester City’s third jersey from last season.

The club crest has also been changed and is heavily based on the City of Melbourne coat of arms, a significant statement of intent to overtake Victory as the big boys in town.

With more signings on the way and rumours surrounding the possible acquisition of Damian Duff and Mark Bresciano, the early signs are good for the club.

Let’s face it, they don’t have too much to live up to after the first few seasons as Melbourne Heart.

Now, only four months to go until a ball is kicked…

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Neil Sherwin
Neil has covered the Perth Glory and the Hyundai A-League for five years and is one of Western Australia's most knowledgeable football journalists.

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