Major League Soccer's fledgling franchise, New York City FC, on Monday confirmed they have signed Spain international and former Atletico Madrid forward David Villa for three years as their first franchise player.
Villa last week confirmed he was leaving Atletico Madrid for "an offer that couldn't be refused." MLS said on Monday that Villa was acquired on a free transfer from Spanish league champions Atletico Madrid.
NYC FC plays their first MLS game in March 2015, and he will be loaned out until pre-season training starts at the end of January. Claudio Reyna, the team's director of football, said loaning Villa to NYCFC parent Manchester City was not an option.
"I couldn't be happier that we have acquired such an amazing talent as our first-ever signing," said NYC FC coach Jason Kreis, who called Villa one of the best strikers in the world. "David will be a shining example of what it will mean to be a New York City player and a leader for us on and off the field. He is hard working, he is a natural competitor, he is a winner at heart, and he is a terrific man. David has checked every box for what we were looking for in our first signing and it is a great day to be a member of this growing family of a club."
Reyna called Villa, who will wear No. 7, the "perfect first signing."
"Throughout my career I've always tried to keep pushing myself to achieve new targets and this represents another important goal for me," he said. "I want to try and help MLS continue to grow, through playing, working hard, scoring goals and at the same time try to make New York City FC become the best team in the league. It's a real honor that the people who have formed the club have focused their attention on me. I'm keen to do the best I can, take on board that extra responsibility and prove my worth by repaying the confidence they have shown in me."
Villa said he played once at Yankee Stadium with the Spanish national team, but is looking forward to being part of the "home team" for NYC FC's debut.
"I hope a lot of people turn out to watch us," he said. "It would be nice to create expectation for the fans before the season starts by playing well and getting good results so that New Yorkers can watch their soccer there, identify with their team and become New York City fans."
Villa said last week that Atletico did not pressure him to leave and said he had the backing of both the club's front office as well as coach Diego Simeone.
"I will be part of Atletico all my life for what they have given me this year," he said.
I am one happy coach today! Our first ever player, @Guaje7Villa, is fantastic! Bienvenidos Amigo!- Jason Kreis (@JasonKreis) June 2, 2014
The Villa deal marks the New York club's first signing since being officially announced as an expansion team last year. Villa is coming off a La Liga title-winning season with Atletico Madrid, where he scored 13 goals in 36 appearances, 32 of them starts. He has also had successful spells with Sporting Gijon, Real Zaragoza, Valencia and Barcelona, for whom he scored in their 2011 Champions League final win over Manchester United.
He has scored 56 goals in 94 appearances for Spain, making him his national team's all-time top scorer. Part of the teams that won both Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup, Villa has been included in Vicente del Bosque's final 23-man squad for this summer's World Cup in Brazil.
ESPN FC's Jeff Carlisle and The Associated Press contributed to this report.