World Cup and UEFA Champions League winner David Villa will appear in Australia's domestic competition next season as part of the deal taking him to New York City FC
The influence of Manchester City on Melbourne Heart has become more apparent with confirmation Villa will join the A-League club.
Villa, who is in camp with Spain ahead of the FIFA World Cup, will complete a guest stint with Heart before linking up with another City-owned club, New York City, in the MLS in 2015.
The 32-year-old striker became the first player to sign with New York City on Monday, after announcing he was leaving Atletico Madrid the day earlier, and will join Heart on a 10-game contract to keep fit in the second half of this year.
With City having purchased Heart in January, Thursday's announcement underlined how different the Australian club's future could be with Abu Dhabi ownership.
Villa scored 13 goals for Atletico as the Madrid-based club won their first La Liga title in 18 years last season, while he also started in the UEFA Champions League final defeat to Real.
The former Valencia and Barcelona forward is Spain's all-time leading goal-scorer with 56 strikes in 94 appearances and will be a key man for Vicente del Bosque, as the Europeans attempt to defend their world title in Brazil.
Villa will arguably become the best player to play in the A-League as he will arrive at Heart still at the top of his game, compared to former Sydney FC marquee signings Alessandro Del Piero and Dwight Yorke, who arrived at the ages of 37 and 33 respectively.
Ferran Soriano, CEO of the City Football Group, said: “We are very proud to have David Villa as part of the City family and are thrilled to announce he will play for Melbourne City FC in the Hyundai A-League this season. The sports fans of Melbourne can look forward to seeing one of the best players in world football representing their city when David brings his rare talents to AAMI Park later this year.”
David Gallop, CEO of the FFA, said: “It is exciting news that David Villa will be playing in the Hyundai A-League 2014-15 season. The presence of some of the world’s finest footballers in our competition, including a player like David coming straight from the World Cup, is an attractive prospect for spectators that further enhances the value of our game.”
Villa, who will play against the Socceroos in Group B at the World Cup, said he was excited about the prospect of playing club football in Australia.
“It’s very good for me in every sense,” Villa said. “From a football point of view it’s the opportunity to play in a new league in a different country, and of course it will be ideal for me to get some competitive football in the period before the MLS season gets under way. I’m sure that playing for Melbourne City FC will be a marvellous experience.”
He added: “What I’ve always done throughout my career is do the best I possibly can. That is what I will do for Melbourne City FC in every game that I play for them. I’ll be giving everything for the team, just like I have with every club I’ve played for.”
Head Coach John van’t Schip said he was delighted Villa would be joining the Club for part of the 2014-15 campaign.
“David Villa is still at the peak of his game; he is playing his third World Cup in Brazil, has just won the Spanish league and is an instinctive and gifted striker who will contribute significantly to Melbourne City FC,” van’t Schip said.
“We are confident David will be an incredible asset to the playing group and his experiences in Europe and for his country will help our players not only on the pitch, but in training as well”, he added.