When he was 4 years old, Villa fractured his right femur. The doctor wanted to operate but said there was a chance Villa could end up with limited mobility the rest of his life. Instead, his parents opted for their son to wear a cast from his hip to ankle in an effort to help the break heal naturally. After being confined to a bed for two months, Villa was finally able to get outside and practice — albeit on a limited basis — playing soccer with his father. Jose Manuel Villa would roll a ball to his son, who was propped up against a wall still in his cast, to kick back to him with his left foot.
Villa’s tireless work ethic and skills yielded opportunities to play with older, bigger kids. It was here he was dubbed El Guaje (The Kid) being one of the younger players on the field or in the streets.
“I recall my dad pushing me to train after the fracture,” said Villa, Spain’s all-time leading scorer. “He always pushed me to train. He helped me focus on shooting with my left leg because I had injured my right leg. The most important thing is my parents didn’t let me give up.”
Now as one of the elder statesmen of the sport, Villa has continued to play with the excitement and fervor of a child. The New York City FC forward is the reigning Major League Soccer MVP and will again be playing in the MLS All-Star Game. Villa was also recently named MLS Player of the Year at the 2017 ESPYs.