David Villa will not come back to NYCFC in 2019. The Spanish striker announced Wednesday that he'll be leaving the club, but he won't be retiring and will be announcing his next destination in the coming days.
The 2010 World Cup champion leaves after becoming NYCFC's first signing and main focal point, both on and off the field, since joining in June 2014. He scored 80 goals in 124 appearances for the club and won 2016 MLS MVP honors during his time in MLS.
''I can only say thank you, thank you to everybody,'' Villa said in a statement. ''First, to City Football Group that gave me the opportunity to come here. To NYCFC and MLS for accepting me. To everybody at the club who helped me day by day. Thank you to the people in the offices, the people working with the team and the coaches and staff. Thank you to my teammates - without them it would have been impossible to be successful. Thank you to the people working in the media that always gave me the respect and the love.
''I remember the first day I showed the jersey and the supporters were there. I would have liked to give the supporters the MLS Cup, but I don't have any doubts that in the next years the club will get it for sure.''
After scoring NYCFC's first goal at Yankee Stadium vs. the New England Revolution, he ended the first season with 18 goals. He improved the next year, with his 23 goals helping the club reach the MLS playoffs for the first time.
Last year, he grabbed 24 goals between the regular season and playoffs and earned a return to Spain's national team, three years after his original retirement from the international stage.
Due to injuries, his final season at NYCFC was less fruitful, but he still led the team in scoring with 15 goals between the regular season and playoffs.
Villa said he intends to continue playing but has not yet decided where that will be. The Athletic's Pablo Maurer reports he'll be playing a year in Japan, where he would follow the path of former teammates Andres Iniesta and Fernando Torres.
“David has been an incredible ambassador and captain to this club since the moment we signed him. His professionalism and leadership helped us through the challenges that a new team faces when they come into the league," said sporting director Claudio Reyna. "He’s represented New York City FC tremendously both on and off the pitch and has been a real leader for this football club.
“I truly believe that David will be remembered as one of the best players to ever play in MLS. He will forever be a legend amongst all of our wonderful supporters and everyone here at NYCFC wishes David nothing but the best in the remainder of his career. He will always be a part of NYCFC.”
On his Designated Player digital platform, Villa confirmed he wants to play another season, but intends to keep it quiet until it's official. Aside from playing, the 36-year-old plans to build on his social media presence as well as growing his DV7 youth academies.