MADRID - Barcelona snapped up Spain striker David Villa from Valencia for 40 million euros on Wednesday, moving swiftly to strengthen their squad just three days after winning the La Liga title.
Valencia president Manuel Llorente said they had accepted Barca's bid for the prized striker, who scored 21 league goals last season to finish his fifth consecutive campaign as the club's top scorer.
"There was a big offer from England that was not from Chelsea but Barcelona's was the best for us and the footballer," Llorente told a news conference.
"Villa has delivered a lot (to Valencia) and he deserves this chance."
FEATURE: Messi & Villa already on good terms
The 28-year-old is Spain's second-highest scorer with 36 goals from 55 matches, eight short of the record held by Real Madrid striker Raul, and he will be spearheading Spain's World Cup campaign in South Africa next month.
"This is without doubt the most difficult and emotive moment of my entire career," Villa said in a statement on Valencia's website.
"After five marvellous seasons I take away many feelings and leave behind many friends but also knowing that it is a good thing for the club.
"I have given my all for Valencia football club, which I will always have in my heart, of which I am a shareholder and which I wish all the luck in the world."
Barcelona confirmed the deal in a statement on their website, saying Villa would sign a four-year contract with an option for one more year.
The player, who Barca said "guaranteed goals", will travel to the Catalan capital on Thursday and will take a medical before being presented on Friday.
Nicknamed "el guaje" (the kid), Villa will join a formidable Barca forward line including La Liga's leading marksman Lionel Messi, Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Spaniards Pedro and Bojan Krkic.
France striker Thierry Henry spent most of last season on the bench and is expected to move on.
Barca sporting director Txiki Begiristain told the club's TV channel on Wednesday Villa was a similar player to Messi in that he could play as a centre forward or drift in from the right wing into goal-scoring positions.
"He has the profile of a player who makes very good diagonal runs and moves very well into space," Begiristain said.
Valencia have been forced into the sale by the precarious nature of their finances. They are burdened with debts of more than 500 million euros, they have a half-built new stadium and have yet to sell their current one, the Mestalla.
"The board's principle objective is to make sure we have economic viability for the future," Llorente said, adding that he did not rule out further sales.
"We are obliged to take responsible decisions. Considering our situation it is responsible to sell this player.
"As everyone knows we could have done this deal last year but we thought at that moment it was best to keep our squad together to try and get into the Champions League.
"We have achieved that aim and finished third in the league, and he has contributed a lot towards this. We think it is good sale and necessary for the economic situation of the club."
FACTS AND FIGURES
Born: December 3, 1981 in Tuilla, Spain.
After starting out with local team Langreo, joined Sporting Gijon's youth academy aged 17. Scored 38 goals in 79 first-team appearances in the 2001/02 and 2002/03 seasons in the second division.
La Liga club Real Zaragoza bought him for around 3 million euros in 2003 and he scored 31 goals in 73 league appearances over the next two seasons.
Scored a penalty to help Zaragoza win the King's Cup final in 2004 when they upset Real Madrid 3-2.
Valencia bought him out of his contract with Zaragoza for 12 million euros in 2005 and he netted 25 goals in his first season to finish one behind league top scorer Samuel Eto'o.
Won the King's Cup with Valencia in 2008 after a 3-1 final victory over Getafe. In August, Valencia rejected a 40 million euro approach from Real and extended his contract to 2014.
Scored 21 league goals for Valencia in the campaign just ended, finishing fourth on the scoring chart behind Lionel Messi (34), Gonzalo Higuain (27) and Cristiano Ronaldo (26).
Won his first international cap for Spain in a World Cup qualifier against San Marino on February 9, 2005.
Scored three goals in the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany when Spain were knocked out by France at the last 16 stage.
Was tournament top scorer at Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland with four goals, but missed Spain's 1-0 final victory over Germany due to injury.
Has become Spain's second highest scorer behind Raul (44) with 36 goals from 55 matches.comments