Barca's Villa set to join Atletico

Updated: 2013-07-10 07:19

By Agencies in London and Monaco (China Daily)

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 Barca's Villa set to join Atletico

Barcelona forward David Villa gestures during the King's Cup second-leg match against Alaves at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona last November. Villa will join Atletico Madrid for the upcoming season. Josep Lago / Agence France-Presse

Spain's all-time leading scorer poised to fill void left by Falcao

Atletico Madrid reached an agreement to sign Spain striker David Villa from Spanish champion Barcelona on Monday, in what could be one of the bargain deals of the offseason.

The 31-year-old, Spain's all-time leading scorer, will move for a fee of up to 5.1 million euros ($6.55 million), with Barca reserving 50 percent of the rights over any future transfer.

Atletico will pay 2.1 million euros this season, a further 2 million if Villa continues to play at the Calderon in the 2014-15 season, and another million if he extends his contract to 2016, Barca said in a statement.

"FC Barcelona and Atletico de Madrid have reached an agreement in principle for the transfer of the player David Villa to the Madrid club," the statement said.

"The operation will cost a maximum of 5.1 million euros, made up of 2.1 million euros this season, 2 million more if the player remains at Atletico in 2014-15 and another million if he extends his contract until 2015/16.

"In the meantime, Barcelona retain the rights to 50 percent of any future transfer of the player."

"The agreement and the signing of Villa as a new player at Atletico will be formalized after the player has taken a medical," Atletico said on its Twitter feed.

The arrival of young Brazil forward Neymar at the Nou Camp had threatened to push Villa even further out of the reckoning on Tito Vilanova's side, after a season that saw him struggle to hold down a regular spot on the first team.

With the World Cup finals looming in Brazil next year, Villa will be keen to make sure he is playing regular soccer at the highest level.

The signing is something of a coup for King's Cup winner Atletico, which was looking for a replacement for Colombia striker Radamel Falcao after he left to join big-spending Monaco.

Atletico finished third in La Liga last season and qualified for the Champions League groups stage, but the cash-strapped club looked to be at the back of the queue as Villa was linked with interest from clubs in England.

Villa has played for Sporting Gijon, Real Zaragoza and Valencia, who he left for Barcelona in 2010 for 40 million euros.

He scored 48 goals in 119 games with the Catalans, including one in the Champions League final against Manchester United in 2011, and helped them win two La Liga titles.

At the international level, he helped Spain win Euro 2008 and the World Cup in 2010, finishing as the side's top scorer at both tournaments.

He missed Euro 2012, recovering from a broken leg in the Club World Cup at the end of 2011, but remains his country's all-time leading scorer with 56 goals from 92 appearances.

Abidal joins Monaco

French international defender Eric Abidal has signed a one-year contract with Ligue 1 newcomer Monaco, the principality club said on Monday.

The 33-year-old, who left Barcelona at the end of last season following six years in Catalonia, has an option for a second season.

It's a return to Monte Carlo for Abidal, who has played most of his career at leftback but did feature in the middle of defense for Barca, having spent two seasons there at the beginning of the last decade.

The former Lille and Lyon player underwent a liver transplant in 2012 and only made his comeback to competitive soccer in April.

Abidal had said he wanted to remain at Barca but the Spanish giant decided against offering him a new deal.

"It's very emotional, it's huge. After what I've been through, it wasn't easy to find a club with confidence in me," Abidal said.

"I had other options after Barcelona (but) my choice was simple. I came on June 10 and spoke to Mr Vadim Vasilyev (the sporting director).

"I kept my word. I'm delighted to be here and to be in good health. It's quite unique for me because I started here at 19 years of age. I really wanted to come back, I have a lot of memories and I went through a lot of emotions here."

He's played 61 times for France and joins a host of new signings by billionaire Russian club owner Dmitry Rybolovlev.

Another French international, Jeremy Toulalan, joined from Malaga on Saturday while Ricardo Carvalho from Real Madrid, Moutinho and James Rodriguez from Porto and Falcao from Atletico Madrid have all already moved to the principality.

(China Daily 07/10/2013 page24)