Building new team around Villa puts New York on map

That’s what you call a statement of intent; New York City FC signing striker David Villa on Monday was an impactful moment.

Building new team around Villa puts New York on map

Timed brilliantly — just as he was being confirmed to the Spanish World Cup squad — and delivered with the sort of social media aplomb this geminating club has boasted for a few months now, there was a genuine wow factor created around the league.

There was enough healthy scepticism too, with some of the more cynical observers noting that this was yet another reason to brush the MLS off as a retirement home.

I didn’t watch him closely enough this season. Maybe he suffered from being in Diego Costa’s shadow (no shame there) and maybe he’s 32 and maybe he hasn’t been the same since that sad day he broke his leg.

But it’s an impressive feat for any club to go from a squad of zero to one readymade star in what seemed like a blink of an eye.

Yeah, okay, it was probably a lengthy enough process, accelerated somewhat by oceans of greenbacks and the chance to live in Manhattan.

Be that as it may; when your first player is a prolific Spanish striker from that team’s golden age, with the ability to boast Champions League, World Cup and La Liga medals, then you’re doing more than just sending a novelty team out to play on a baseball diamond in the Bronx.

All of a sudden, they weren’t just good at tweeting and hashtagging — they had finally sent out a warning shot to their Tristate rivals on the other side of the Hudson, the New York Red Bulls.

Villa agreed to a three-year contract, having joined on a free transfer from Atlético Madrid.

It is expected he will be among the highest paid players in a league which keeps a tight grip on how well paid its players are.

The club might be jointly owned by the New York Yankees and Manchester City but there will only be so much they can spend if they are not to fall foul of league rules.

They will enter Major League Soccer in 2015 and are sure to have one or two more marquee signings added to their ranks by that stage.

Prior to this, even the club’s trivial acts have gained them notoriety as they busied themselves with all sorts of headline-grabbing promotion.

They will play their first couple of seasons in Yankee Stadium while they take their time searching for the right location on which to build their new stadium.

Not only that but they crowdsourced their new crest and even made recently retired Yankee pitching legend Mariano Rivera their first season ticket holder.

But not until Villa’s smiling mug was plastered everywhere on Monday could they possibly be taken seriously on a footballing level.

Aside from the obvious financial upside which attracted the owners to the untapped potential of what lies east and north of Manhattan, New York City have also sprung into life as a means of keeping the New York Cosmos out of commission.

As worrying as this must be for the Red Bulls, it’s the final insult for the Cosmos whose timing was as ill-thought out as their political manoeuvring.

In spite of their history, their ambitious stadium plans and already strong ties to thriving soccer communities in Queens, Brooklyn and out across the rest of Long Island, MLS chief Don Garber did almost everything in his power to scupper the Cosmos bid to become a so-called expansion team.

Meanwhile in Brazil, Villa will have an opportunity to add to his record total of 56 international goals, but what then?

With the European and MLS soccer calendars out of sync, he will inevitably play at a proper level on loan for another half-season before coming over to settle in New York City ahead of their first game next March.

Claudio Reyna, New York City FC’s sporting director, has already made it clear that any potential loan deal would not involve Man City.

All eyes now on Chelsea’s Frank Lampard who was also reportedly in talks to come over.

That would be less impressive in terms of what they do on the pitch but would carry an equal amount of buzz.

Major League Soccer might be nowhere near the finished product but if there was ever a spur to keep the other clubs on edge, it’s the combined sporting ferocity and avarice of Manchester City and the New York Yankees.

johnwriordan@gmail.com Twitter: JohnWRiordan

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