Justification: David Villa’s Spain return is just what the MLS needed

Sean Lunt

Amid the furore surrounding Wayne Rooney’s international retirement, David Villa returning to the Spain setup went overlooked by the media.

Villa hasn’t featured for Spain since 2014, despite the fact he is the country’s all-time highest goalscorer. That year he headed to Australia’s A-League on loan before joining New York City FC in the MLS.

The issue was obvious: the Spanish management did not think he was playing at a high enough level.

As far as most are concerned, including numerous international managers, the MLS is not a highly competitive division. Most struggle to decide how competitive it actually is, just like the Scottish Premiership.

Instead, it’s been a league where a player goes to finish their career or secure a nice final payday. It’s what Steven Gerrard and David Beckham both did in the past decade.

It’s the reason some would consider it worse than England’s League One. The Chinese Super League is trying to overcome a similar problem.

Paulinho’s move to Barcelona this summer has helped them in that pursuit, showing many that big clubs are looking at China as a legitimate league.

And just like the Brazilian’s move to the Nou Camp has opened eyes to China, Villa’s return to the Spain squad has done the same for the MLS.

His return shows that managers, or Spain’s at least; do not see the MLS as a weak division anymore. Indeed, it suggests quite the opposite.

It suggests that the MLS is now seen as a legitimate league, on par with some of Europe’s better divisions.

Villa has managed 58 goals in 91 games in three years in the USA, an impressive record by anyone’s standards. Previously it would have been sneered at but now it is a legitimately solid record.

To put it into perspective, Fernando Torres and Diego Costa are absent from this squad. Sure, Costa is currently AWOL but Torres is a genuine option.

He plays in La Liga and the Champions League regularly and yet a player playing in the MLS is in ahead of him, that’s a big deal – it’s certainly something that will make his fellow professionals stand up and take notice.

Just like managers, players have often looked down their nose on the MLS but Villa’s return to the Spain squad makes it a viable option for a move. Rather than seeing it as a backwards step, players will view the MLS as a place to further their career, that’s a huge step forward.

Just like Paulinho’s move to Barcelona has gone some way to giving the Chinese Super League pulling power, Villa’s return to the Spain squad has done the same for the MLS.

Given its relative infancy compared to some European leagues, the MLS will always be looked down upon in some quarters of the game. It’s taken big steps forward in recent years, though, largely boosted by the USA’s strong World Cup performance back in 2014.

Villa’s return to the Spain squad is another big step for them. It may have just given the MLS the legitimacy it has long been craving.