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Villa, left, is back in favour at Barcelona, striking up a productive pairing with Messi. Manu Fernandez / AP Photo
Villa, left, is back in favour at Barcelona, striking up a productive pairing with Messi. Manu Fernandez / AP Photo

Lionel Messi right at home next to David Villa at Barcelona

The Argentine and Spaniard are forming a lethal partnership now the latter is back in favour at Camp Nou, writes Andy Mitten.

David Villa's Barcelona career seemed over a month ago. The most informed people at the club briefed that he was leaving in the summer.

Barca, they argued convincingly, wanted to cash in on a player who still has cachet, before he gets too old and before his contract runs out in 2014.

Villa, 31, wanted to leave in January and Arsenal were prepared to pay 20 million (Dh111.1m) for him.

But Barcelona would not sell him then, wanting to wait until the season's end, when they had brought a new forward to the club and promoted the reserve striker Gerard Deulofeu.

Villa was frustrated by his lack of opportunities after returning from serious injury in August.

Pedro, Alexis Sanchez and Tello, each of them more suited to the wing, were given more chances in the side than him.

Villa's best position is as a central forward, but he has seldom played there for Barca. That is Lionel Messi's berth. And Messi plays where he wants to play.

Villa's situation has changed in recent weeks. He started - and scored - in the 4-0 win at home to AC Milan that kept them in the Uefa Champions League earlier this month.

Not only that, he started as a central forward with Messi just behind in a freer role. His link-up play and movement alongside Messi was a key factor in Barca's best performance of the season.

Then he started against Rayo Vallecano on Sunday, a winger in a more central role than a conventional wide man. He had two assists in their 3-1 success.

Villa and Messi looked delighted with each other - it has not always been so. Messi's influence in selecting whom he plays alongside is significant and he has decided that the best man for the moment is Villa.

Barca look at their best when the two are paired together. Villa is rarely offside, his anticipation is peerless, he gives Barcelona the option of a long ball forward - a plan B that was largely thought they did not have.

Far from offloading him, Barcelona are now considering offering a new contract to the Spaniard.

Tito Vilanova, the coach who is expected to return from cancer treatment in New York next week, will speak with Villa.

Villa is said to be undecided on what to do, his chances of adding more goals to his record international haul of 53 will be improved if he stays in Spain.

Or, with little to prove, does he do his own thing and move to England?


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