POTCHEFSTROOM - David Villa, a miner's son from the northern Spanish region of Asturias, has struck a rich seam of goals in South Africa that may help lift the Iberian nation to a first World Cup triumph.
The 28-year-old striker has rattled in 43 in 64 games since making his debut in 2005, one short of the national scoring record of 44 in 102 held by Raul, and is the 2010 World Cup's joint-leading marksman with five goals in six matches.
His scoring prowess in La Liga earned him a 40 million-euro move to Barcelona following five campaigns with Valencia, and after being overshadowed by new Barca team-mate Lionel Messi in La Liga last season has burst spectacularly into the spotlight at his second World Cup.
In a sign of his ambition, he said in an interview this week that although he was perhaps already enjoying the best moment of his career, he always wanted more.
"I am very pleased right now with what is a marvellous situation in my professional life, maybe the greatest of my life," he said. "But I hope the best is yet to come."
Villa, whose favourite film is "Braveheart" about Scottish patriot William Wallace and who always makes sure he takes to the pitch on his right foot, had spells with local club Sporting Gijon and Real Zaragoza before joining Valencia.
He is quick, makes intelligent runs across the frontline and is dangerous from deadball situations.
Comfortable on either foot, he can drop deep or pull into wide positions when playing with Fernando Torres while the stronger Liverpool forward takes on the centre-backs.
Coach Vicente del Bosque has often used him in the lone striker role and Torres's poor form after returning from knee surgery shortly before the finals means almost all the goalscoring onus has fallen on Villa.
Although Torres will be remembered for scoring the only goal in the 1-0 defeat of Germany in the final at Euro 2008, Villa was top scorer for the tournament with four goals, despite missing most of the semi-final and the final through injury.
While not quite packing the same media profile as his strike partner, Villa is hugely popular with fans and team mates and demonstrates the modesty and generosity typical among the current generation of Spanish players.
His advice for aspiring footballers?
"Never stop loving this job, always try to improve, never admit defeat and always be yourself."comments