Spanish striker David Villa says he will retire in January. The 37-year-old will finish his career with Vissel Kobe in January of next year at the close of the league season in Japan, ending the career of Spain’s top scorer in international play.

“It’s better to leave football before football leaves me,” Villa said. “I’ve been thinking for several years when you reach 33, 34 or 35 the moment can arrive at any time in a game, in training, or with an injury.”

Villa scored 59 goals in 98 appearances for Spain from 2004-17, including five goals at the 2010 World Cup as his nation won the title for the first time. He also scored four goals for Spain en route to the 2008 European Championship title and is his country’s most prolific scorer ever.

Before signing with Kobe, Villa played at Valencia, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid before spending four seasons with New York City FC, scoring 80 goals in 124 MLS appearances.

“It’s a decision I’ve thought about a lot,” Villa continued. “I spoke about this with the people who care about me, with my family, and the people who have been with me for my whole career.”

David Villa joined Vissel Kobe in 2018 after a successful spell with New York City FC in MLS.



David Villa joined Vissel Kobe in 2018 after a successful spell with New York City FC in MLS. Photograph: Buddhika Weerasinghe/EPA

Villa repeated several times that it was not a knee-jerk reaction. He scored 12 goals this season for Kobe, a decent scoring output for a struggling club. But he said he knew the retirement time was near.

“I was surprised at the level of play in the J-League,” he said. “Not only in terms of the veteran players here, but the young players here that have enormous potential. It’s not that I was expecting less. I was expecting a top league, but it surpassed by expectations.”

Villa has also mentioned his interest being an investor in a new club based in the New York area Queensboro FC, which will play in the second tier of American soccer.

“Queens always showed love to me and my family while we were in New York,” he wrote on Twitter, adding it was “a dream to build” a new professional team.



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