Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova has again stressed that David Villa will not leave the club this January, saying the attacker will be an important member of the team in the second half of the season.
It would appear that Villa would have been unlikely to start at the weekend even had he been fit, with the Spain striker having been used mostly from the bench in recent La Liga games, but Vilanova suggested he would have a key role to play before the season was out.
“David Villa is not leaving,” Vilanova said. “We know how important he is to the team. He scored twice the other day. He is still coming back from a long injury, and each time he gets more minutes. But he had some more problems. Last year we missed him a lot in the second half of the season.”
The win, secured with goals from Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara, saw Barca complete the first half of the Primera Division season with 18 wins and 1 draw from 19 games, leaving them 11 points ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid, with Real Madrid a full 18 points adrift in third.
“We are very pleased with how we have done in the first half of La Liga, getting 55 from the 57 points,” Vilanova said. “It is fantastic to have won ten games away from home. This advantage was unthinkable at the start of the season, but we have to keep on going. We cannot stop here. The Liga title has not been won yet. We still have the whole second half of the season to play.”
Vilanova put the record-breaking start to his own spell in charge down to the club’s quality players and well established style of play.
“The key is the players are very good,” he said. “With some, like Sergio Busquets and Pedro Rodriguez, we have spent six years working with them and it is four years with many others. They know the system. And they want to win. If that was not the case, there would be nothing we could do. The day we do not play at a high level is the day we lose."
Vilanova missed the Cordoba game because he was visiting a clinic in New York as he continues his recovery from December’s operation to remove a tumour from his parotid gland, but he said getting back to work was useful for him.
“I feel fine, and was able to come to work,” he said. “Football, for me, is not work, but enjoyment. It is the best therapy.”