By Simon Evans
(Reuters) - Spanish World Cup striker David Villa has signed for New York City FC on a three-year deal, the Major League Soccer team said on Monday.
Villa, who helped Atletico Madrid win last season's Spanish league title, will join the new club who will begin playing in the MLS in 2015.
The deal is arguably the biggest signing made by an MLS team since David Beckham joined L.A. Galaxy with the 32-year-old Villa a current world champion.
Villa is the first player signed by NYCFC, who are jointly owned by English Premier League club Manchester City and baseball's New York Yankees.
"This is a historic and exciting moment for the City family and the building of New York City Football Club,” said club chief executive Ferran Soriano.
"I know David really well; he is one of the best footballers in the world, a true winner and in an outstanding moment of his career. I’m sure New Yorkers will enjoy watching him play for their city," he said.
Villa was part of the hugely successful Barcelona team under Pep Guardiola and he will wear the number seven shirt he graced at the Nou Camp.
"I want to try and help MLS continue to grow, through playing, working hard, scoring goals and at the same time try to make New York City FC become the best team in the league.
"It's a real honour that the people who have formed the club have focussed their attention on me. I'm keen to do the best I can, take on board that extra responsibility and prove my worth by repaying the confidence they have shown in me," he added.
Villa joins another former Barcelona player in the New York area - former France international Thierry Henry plays for the New York Red Bulls, who are based in Harrison, New Jersey.
But while Henry's career in Europe was already waning by the team he moved to MLS, Villa moves to the States still close to his prime - he is currently preparing for the World Cup in Brazil as part of Vicente del Bosque's Spain squad.
Villa emerged in La Liga with Sporting Gijon before moving to Real Zaragoza and then Valencia, where he made his name with 32 goals in 73 appearances.
The forward moved to Barcelona in May of 2010 for a reported fee of 40 million euros and he won two Spanish league titles and the Champions League in 2010-11.
He joined Atletico last season and helped the team to the league title and the final of the Champions League where they lost to Real Madrid.
"David Villa is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished football players and best strikers in the world,” said NYC FC head coach Jason Kreis.
"I couldn't be happier that we have acquired such an amazing talent as our first-ever signing. David will be a shining example of what it will mean to be a New York City player and a leader for us on and off the field.
"He is hard working, he is a natural competitor, he is a winner at heart, and he is a terrific man. David has checked every box for what we were looking for in our first signing."
The new club has yet to secure their own stadium and will play their first season at Yankee Stadium.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; editing by Justin Palmer)