Villa could supersede Ronaldo

July 1st, 2010

All hail King David: Striker David Villa clips the ball over Portugal goalkeeper Eduardo to score the decisive goal for Spain. (Photo: Getty Images)

On this form, David Villa is in contention to replace Cristiano Ronaldo as Iberia’s biggest soccer star.

While 2008 world player of the year Ronaldo was again subdued as his Portugal side was eliminated from the World Cup, Villa scored his fourth goal of the competition for a 1-0 win that took Spain into the quarter-finals and moved him top of the tournament scoring charts with Gonzalo Higuain and Robert Vittek.

“David Villa is on fire, which is really good news for us,” Spain defender Gerard Pique said.

Villa showed the sort of lethal finishing against Portugal that Ronaldo has been lacking for his national side.

First shooting with his left foot to force goalkeeper Eduardo into a save, he followed up the rebound with his right foot for a 63rd-minute winner.

Ronaldo was billed as one of the top stars coming into the tournament in South Africa but left much as England’s Wayne Rooney did: with bitter disappointment.

Ronaldo did not speak to reporters after the match but vented his frustration on his agent’s website.

“I feel devastated, completely broken-hearted, frustrated and unimaginably sad,” Ronaldo said. “I know I’m the captain, I have always faced up to my responsibilities, and I always will.”

But momentum is with Villa. Even before coming to South Africa, Villa already had his big club move from Valencia to Barcelona in the bag. It allowed him to fully concentrate what he does best — score goals.

And with seven World Cup goals overall, the 28-year old already is Spain’s best ever at the tournament.

There is only one key to Villa’s success.

“To keep scoring,” Villa said. “It was one of my best goals because it got us through to the next round. Keep scoring so we can keep going.”

The strike left Villa with 42 goals in 62 games, just two short of the 44 in 102 racked up by Spanish icon Raul Gonzalez.

On top of scoring, Villa was constant threat on the left, continuing to pound Portugal with surging runs and powerful shots.

Half an hour after the game at Green Point Stadium, hundreds of Spanish fans were still singing Villa’s praises. Again, Villa will be an overwhelming favourite to score when Spain plays Paraguay at Ellis Park on Saturday.

How different the fortunes of Cristiano Ronaldo have been. Not that he lacked support among the 62,955 fans at the Green Point Stadium.

One banner read “Marry me Ronaldo.” Three girls each had a banner “Ro” ”Nal“ and ”Do.“ Others were Portuguese jerseys with Ronaldo’s photo printed on the front.

It also showed Ronaldo’s predicament. When Villa has an off day, there is Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez or Fernando Torres to absorb the pressure.

Tuesday’s loss showed that during the biggest games, Portugal still relies too heavily on Ronaldo. And the Real Madrid forward sometimes has trouble dealing with it.

Right before the opening whistle, Ronaldo pleaded to the heavens with outstretched arms, seemingly begging to make his mark on a huge game. It didn’t work.

Villa turns it on when it matters — three goals at the 2006 World Cup, top scorer with four goals at Euro 2008 and four already here.

Ronaldo scored one penalty in 2006, one goal at Euro 2008 and one goal in South Africa.

When he came to Real Madrid from Manchester United as the world’s most expensive player at 94 million euros (C$121 million), just showing up for the fan presentation filled the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

He was supposed to end a trophy drought for Real Madrid and get it into the Champions League final that his club hosted. He failed on those counts despite scoring 26 goals in 29 matches in his debut season.

And in the high-stakes rivalry with Barcelona, he will be facing a surging Villa next season.

Source: The Globe and Mail

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