Top scorer at UEFA EURO 2008 and a fixture at the sharp end of the Spanish attack, David Villa is currently one of the world's hottest striking properties. A born competitor with an unquenchable thirst for finding the net, Villa always has the goal in his sights whether playing as an out-and-out forward, in a withdrawn role or wide-left in a front three.
Known as El Guaje (an affectionate name given to children in his native Asturias), this quick and explosive hitman is certainly not afraid of hard work, and is always willing to drop deep and help out his midfield. It is this level of commitment and the gutsy nature of his performances that make the Valencia man a fan's favourite for club and country, as well as earning him his fair share of run-ins with match officials.
Naturally right-footed, Villa is nearly as proficient with his left, thanks to a childhood accident and his father's foresight. Seeing how his four-year old son would not stop playing even after bearing a plaster cast on his broken right leg, Villa senior felt it best to show the youngster how to strike the ball with his weaker foot.
Now 28, Villa came up through the youth ranks and began learning his trade at Sporting de Gijon, before exploding onto the La Liga scene at Real Zaragoza, where he enjoyed two goal-filled years between 2003 and 2005. Valencia then spent big to bring the front-runner to the Mestalla, though El Guaje quickly repaid the investment by coming within one goal of the division's top scorer's award, El Pichichi, in his debut campaign. He did however finish as the leading Spanish-born scorer, an honour he has since claimed on two further occasions.
After the 2009/2010 season, Villa signed with FC Barcelona and will now wear the vaunted blaugrana colours after helping Spain qualify simply for South Africa 2010. The Asturian made his debut for La Roja in February 2005, during Spain's successful qualifying campaign for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™. And the tournament itself could barely have started better, with Villa notching twice in his country's 4-0 opening win over Ukraine. Despite Luis Aragones's side's exit from the competition in the Round of 16 against France, Villa's four-goal haul certainly did his own standing no harm whatsoever.
Since then, save for absences through injury or suspension, Villa has been an ever-present in La Roja squad and had already racked up 36 goals at the time of publication. Now second in Spain's all-time scorers' list, at his current rate Raul's record tally of 44 appears well within his reach.
Playing a part in his huge popularity is that, whatever plaudits and success come his way, Villa never fails to play down his own role and heap praise on those around him. And next up for Spain and their inspirational goal-getter is the sizable challenge of South Africa 2010, where he and his mates will be keen to make up for the disappointments of 2006.