Spain scoring legend David Villa believes today’s El Clasico could be a tale of two Brazilian wingers with Raphinha and Vinicius Jr going head-to-head at the Nou Camp.
Speaking about Barcelona’s second-top scorer Raphinha, Villa said: ‘He is one of Barcelona’s key players now. They always rely on direct wingers and he is a good signing. I saw a lot of him in Leeds because Rodrigo is my friend [Moreno] and Jack Harrison so I’m not surprised.
‘We look at his goals and assists but he gives a lot more. I played on the left wing for Barcelona and I know as a winger there you have to work hard to open up space for others.’
And to Raphinha’s compatriot, Vinicius, Villa said that the 22-year-old will get better. The 19-goal striker has been a big benefactor this season of Real Madrid’s failure to sign Kylian Mbappe last summer.
Asked if Vinicius was already at Mbappe’s level, Villa said: ‘I don’t like to compare players; he is quite different from Mbappe even though they both can play in the same position on the pitch. But he has pushed a lot this season. I like the direct style he has.
David Villa scored 48 goals in 119 appearances for Barcelona in three years at the club
Villa praised Brazilian forward Raphinha who is Barca’s second-top goal scorer this season
‘I think football is slowly losing that type of player who plays on the wing, and people seem to be taken. There aren’t as many as before and Vinicius is one of them. He was great to watch play and always wanted to pick people up and go for the byline or goal.
‘And I don’t think Mbappe came last summer Vinicius pushed this season. He’s maturing as a player which is only natural because he’s been playing regularly and he’s very good.’
Villa scored twice on his Clasico debut in 2010 as Pep Guardiola’s side beat Jose Mourinho’s side 5-0. The game was played following a war of words between the two coaches.
He recalled: ‘It was special because it was my first. It’s something I’ve always dreamed of playing a game as big as that one. But it was also special because there was nothing between the two sides that season and because of everything going on in the battle between Guardiola and Mourinho.
‘It was a game we didn’t know what was going to happen because the teams were so close so imagine how it felt to score twice and for the result. And we ended up winning the league. It was one of the best days of my career and I will never forget it.’
Villa claimed that Vinicius Jr is a different player to Kylian Mbappe although they have both played in similar positions
Pep Guardiola (L) and Jose Mourinho (R) have endured a bitter managerial rivalry at Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively
This season the backdrop is more controversial with Barcelona’s referee-chief payments scandal likely to change his normal pre-match niceties with presidents not having lunch together before the game.
Villa said: ‘I don’t think the players will be affected. The pressure is constant at these clubs and you have to deal with it. They know how to separate themselves when the football starts.’
Barcelona go into Sunday’s game with a nine-point lead and just 13 games to play. Villa said: ‘Madrid can restore an advantage like before but if they don’t win Sunday’s game there will be less time to do that and they won’t have a direct game.’
His former Barcelona team-mate Xavi has guided the team to 11 1-0 wins so far – more than any other coach in Europe and there have been complaints from Barca purists that their team is not always exciting .
Villa has said he wants to play with Luka Modric for the ‘assists’ the Croatian will provide
Villa scored 49 goals in 98 caps for Spain and helped them win the 2010 World Cup
‘Whoever lifts the league is the one who wins the most games and there’s more than one way to do that,’ said Villa. ‘I wouldn’t say that all ways of winning are justified but winning is what matters and there are different ways to do that.’
Villa was also full of praise for Barcelona’s young midfielders Pedri and Gavi – who he likened to Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
Villa said: ‘They are [Pedri and Gavi] are two of the best midfielders in the world at the moment and have similarities with Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
‘It’s true that those two set a high level and we have to be patient but the truth is that Gavi and Pedri reached the first team and the Spanish first team at an earlier age and Xavi and Iniesta. And they got to the point where they were two of the best midfielders in the world aged 20 and 18 when they were still developing as players.
‘At their age I was still playing in the second division. It’s not easy being the first choice for Barcelona when you’re only 18, 19 or 20 years old. That’s why we have to support Ansu Fati because he’s very young and he had a serious injury that affected him when he was very young.’
Villa also selected Rodrygo Goes as a forward he wanted to play with
Sportsmail asked one player from each side who he would like to have played with during his career.
Villa said: ‘I will be selfish and I will choose someone who will give me a lot of help. So it will be Pedri from Barcelona. He is the most similar to Iniesta who gave me the most assists. I am sure that with Pedri I will have many good passes, many chances to score goals.
‘And for a Madrid player it would be Modric for the same reason, for assists. But Rodrygo Goes, when he plays wide, is a player who scores a lot of goals but he also likes to give assists. So for selfish reasons I’ll choose all three.’
The praise for Rodrygo was unexpected.
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News/Image Sources: Daily Mail