David Villa has revealed how close he came to joining Arsenal before leaving Barcelona back in 2013, insisting he was “90 per cent” certain the transfer would come to fruition at one stage.
Villa enjoyed an illustrious career at the highest level spanning almost two decades, with successful spells at Valencia, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid taken in between 2005 and 2014.
The former Spain international established himself as one of the top strikers in world football during his time at Camp Nou, scoring 43 goals in 110 games across all competitions.
Villa helped Barcelona to win eight major trophies in total, including La Liga twice and the Champions League, forming one-third of a deadly attacking triumvirate alongside Lionel Messi and Pedro.
The 38-year-old was used mainly as a substitute during his final season with the Blaugrana, however, and ultimately decided to move on in search of regular football.
Villa believed Arsenal would be his next destination until Atletico came calling, as he told BBC Sport: “We were in a lot of meetings and a lot of calls.
“I felt 90% in that moment that I [would] go to Arsenal and Arsene Wenger.
“But at that moment we didn’t arrive at the deal, Atletico Madrid arrived and in three or four days fixed everything.
“I don’t know what would have happened if I’d signed for Arsenal. I’m very happy that I signed for Atletico Madrid, not just for winning the league but for everything. I’m very happy to have made that choice.”
Arsenal were not the only club linked with a move for Villa while he was at the peak of his powers, with Liverpool and Chelsea also credited with an interest in his services on several occasions.
The World Cup winner says he had plenty of chances to undertake a new challenge in England, but ended up remaining in La Liga despite being an avid fan of the Premier League.
“I love the Premier League. In my career, I always watched a lot of games in the Premier League,” Villa added.
“I always thought about going there one time, but in the moment that all these offers arrived to me or to my agent, I made another decision. Why? I don’t know.
“Many times I had the opportunity to go there, but I chose another way.”
Villa, who hung up his boots in December after a stint in Japan with Vissel Kobe, went on to discuss his time playing alongside Messi at Barcelona, insisting the six-time Ballon d’Or winner is “good at everything” on the pitch.
“If you ask me what’s his best position, I don’t know. He’s not a No.9 but the top scorer,” Villa added. “He’s not a No.10 but he’s the top assist provider. He’s not a tall guy but he scores headers – he’s good at everything.
“We were thinking sometimes he’s not shooting well with the right foot, then he scores amazing goals with the right foot. I think that he played as a keeper one time and he did well.
“That’s the reality of Messi. Everyone knows he’s a quiet guy. He’s very normal in the dressing room and on the field.”