Spain goalscoring legend David Villa believes today’s El Clásico could be the story of two Brazilian wingers with Raphinha and Vinicius Jr going head-to-head at the Camp Nou.
Speaking about Barcelona’s second-highest scorer Raphinha, Villa said: “He is one of Barcelona’s key players now. They have always relied on direct full-backs and he has been a great signing. I saw him a lot at Leeds because I am friends with him. from Rodrigo. [Moreno] and Jack Harrison, so I’m not surprised.
“We look at his goals and assists, but he gives a lot more. I played on the left wing at Barcelona and I know that to be a winger you have to work very hard to open space for others.
And about Raphinha’s compatriot Vinicius, Villa said he said the 22-year-old will only get better. The 19-goal forward has been the great beneficiary this season of Real Madrid’s failure to sign Kylian Mbappé last summer.
Asked if Vinicius was now at Mbappe’s level, Villa said: “I don’t like to compare players; he’s a bit different to Mbappe, although they can both play in the same position on the pitch. But he’s pushed a lot this season. I love the direct style you have.
David Villa scored 48 goals in 119 appearances for Barcelona in three years at the club
Villa praised Brazilian striker Raphinha, who is Barca’s second top scorer this season
“I think that football is gradually losing that type of player who plays on the wings and who seeks to face people. There aren’t as many as before and Vinicius is one of them. It’s great to watch him play and he always wants to take on the people and go to the baseline or goal.
And I think that, regardless of the fact that Mbappé did not arrive last summer, Vinicius would have carried on this season. He is maturing as a player, which is natural because he plays regularly and has a lot of skill.”
Villa scored twice on his Clásico debut in 2010 as Pep Guardiola’s side beat José Mourinho’s side 5-0. The match was played after a war of words between the two coaches.
He recalled: ‘It was special because it was my first. It was something he had always dreamed of playing a game as big as that. But it was also special because there was nothing going on between the two teams that season and because of everything that was going on around that battle between Guardiola and Mourinho.
“It was a game where we didn’t know what was going to happen because the teams were so close, so imagine what it feels like to score twice and for the result.” And we ended up winning the league. It was one of the best days of my career and I will never forget it.’
Villa claimed that Vinicius Jr was a different player to Kylian Mbappe, although both can play in similar positions.
Pep Guardiola (left) and José Mourinho (right) had a tense rivalry coaching Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.
This season, the backdrop is even more controversial with Barcelona’s chief referee payments scandal likely to upset the normal pre-match niceties with presidents not having a pre-match lunch together.
Villa said: ‘I don’t think the players will be affected. The pressure is constant in these clubs and you have to know how to handle it. They know how to isolate themselves once football starts.’
Barcelona enters Sunday’s game with a nine-point lead and just 13 games to play. Villa said: “Madrid can always regain an advantage as they have done before, but if they don’t win Sunday’s game, they will have less time to do so and they won’t have direct play.”
His former Barcelona teammate Xavi has guided the team to 11 1-0 wins so far this season, more than any other manager in Europe and there have been complaints from Barca purists that his team hasn’t always thrilled.
Villa said he would love to play with Luka Modric for ‘the assists’ the Croatian would give
Villa scored 49 goals in 98 appearances for Spain and helped them win the 2010 World Cup
“Whoever lifts the league is the one who wins the most games and there is more than one way to do it,” said Villa. “I wouldn’t say all ways to win are justified, but winning is what matters and there are several ways to do it.”
Villa also praised Barcelona’s young midfielders Pedri and Gavi, whom he compared to Xavi and Andrés Iniesta.
Villa said: ‘They [Pedri and Gavi] They are two of the best midfielders in the world at the moment and there are similarities with Xavi and Andrés Iniesta.
“It is true that those two set the bar very high and you have to be patient but the truth is that Gavi and Pedri have reached the first team and the first team in Spain much earlier and Xavi and Iniesta. And they have reached the point of being two of the best midfielders in the world at 20 and 18 years old when they are still developing as players.
‘At his age I was still playing in the second division. It’s not easy being Barcelona’s first choice when you’re only 18, 19 or 20 years old. That is why we have to support Ansu Fati because he is still very young and has had serious injuries that have affected him being so young.
Villa also chose Rodrygo Goes as a striker they would have enjoyed playing with.
Asked by Sportsmail for a player from each side he would like to have played with during his career, Villa chose Pedri, who remains a big doubt going into today’s game, and a Real Madrid midfielder at the other end of his career.
Villa said: ‘I would be selfish and pick someone who gives me a lot of assists. Then it would be Pedri from Barcelona. He is the closest to Iniesta who has given me the most assists. I am sure that with Pedri by my side I would have many good passes, many scoring chances.
And for a Madrid player it would be Modric for the same thing, for the assists. But Rodrygo Goes, when he plays away, is a player who scores a lot of goals but also likes to give assists. So for selfish reasons, he would choose those three.
The praise for Rodrygo was unexpected.
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