David Villa hails Barcelona pair Pedri and Gavi ahead of El Clasico

David Villa insists Barcelona’s El Clasico clash with Real Madrid will be a tale of two Brazilian wingers… claiming Raphinha has become ‘one of Xavi’s key players this season’ before drawing similarities between Vinicius Jr and Kylian Mbappe

  • Barcelona and Real Madrid face off in LaLiga’s second El Clasico on Sunday
  • Raphinha is Barca’s second-top scorer after only joining from Leeds in summer
  • Pedri hails Lionel Messi as the greatest ever after playing with him as a youngster

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 have always depended on direct wingers and he has been a great signing. I saw him a lot at Leeds because I’m friends with Rodrigo [Moreno] and Jack Harrison so I’m not surprised. 

‘We look at his goals and assists but he gives so much more. I played on the left wing for Barcelona and I know to be a winger there you have to work very hard to open space for others.’

And on Raphinha’s compatriot Vinicius, Villa said he said the 22-year-old will only get better. The 19-goal striker has been the big benefactor this season of Real Madrid’s failure to sign Kylian Mbappe last summer.

Asked if Vinicius was now at Mbappe’s level, Villa said: ‘I don’t like to compare players; he’s a little bit different to Mbappe even though they can both play in the same position on the pitch. But he has pushed on a lot this season. I love the direct style he has. 

David Villa scored 48 goals in 119 appearances for Barcelona in a three-year spell at the club

Villa hailed Brazilian forward Raphinha who is Barca’s second-top goal scorer this season

‘I think football is gradually losing that type of player who plays on the wing, and who looks to take people on. There aren’t as many as there were before and Vinicius is one of them. It’s great to watch him play and always want to take people on and go for the byline or the goal. 

‘And I think independently of Mbappe not arriving last summer Vinicius would have pushed on this season. He’s maturing as a player which is only natural because he’s playing regularly and he has so much ability.’

Villa scored twice on his Clasico debut in 2010 when Pep Guardiola’s team 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 one. It was something I had always dreamed of playing a game as big as that one. But it was special too because there was nothing between the two sides that season and because of everything that was happening around that battle between Guardiola and Mourinho.

‘It was a game that we didn’t know what was going to happen because the teams were so close so imagine what it felt like 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’ll never forget it.’

Villa claimed Vinicius Jr was a different player to Kylian Mbappe although both are able to play in similar positions

Pep Guardiola (L) and Jose Mourinho (R) endured a tense rivalry managing Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively

This season the backdrop is even more controversial with Barcelona’s referee-chief payments scandal likely to alter he normal pre-match niceties with the 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 need to be able to handle it. They know how to isolate themselves once the football starts.’

Barcelona go into the game on Sunday with a nine-point advantage and only 13 games to play. Villa said: ‘Madrid can always claw back an advantage as they have done before but if they don’t win the game on Sunday there will be less time to do that and they wont have the direct game.’

His former Barcelona team-mate Xavi has guided the team to 11 1-0 wins so far this season – more than any other coach in Europe and there have been complaints from the Barca purists that they team have not always thrilled.

Villa said he would love to play with Luka Modric for ‘the assists’ the Croatian would provide

Villa scored 49 goals in 98 caps for Spain and helped them win the 2010 World Cup

‘Who lifts the league is the one who wins the most games and there is more than one way to do that,’ said Villa. ‘I wouldn’t say all ways of winning are justified but winning is what matters and there are various 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 [Pedri and Gavi] are two of the best midfielders in the world at the moment and there are similarities with Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

‘It’s true that those two set the bar very high and we have to be patient but the fact is that Gavi and Pedri have reached the first team and the Spain first team at a much earlier age and Xavi and Iniesta did. And they have reached the point where they are two of the best midfielders in the world aged 20 and 18 when they are still developing as players.

‘At their age I was still playing in the second division. It’s not easy being first choice for Barcelona when you are just 18, 19 or 20 years old. That’s why we have to support Ansu Fati because he is still so young and he has had serious injuries who have affected while he’s so young.’

Villa also picked out Rodrygo Goes as a forward he would have enjoyed playing alongside

Asked by Sportsmail for a player from each side who he who would like to have played with during his career Villa picked Pedri – who remains a big doubt for today’s game – and a Real Madrid midfielder at the other end of his career.

Villa said: ‘I would be selfish and pick someone who is going to give me a lot of assists. So it would be Pedri from Barcelona. He’s the most similar to Iniesta who gave me most assists. I’m sure with Pedri alongside me I would have plenty of good passes, plenty of chances to score goals.

‘And for a Madrid player it would be Modric for the same reason, for the assists. But Rodrygo Goes, when he plays out wide, is a player who scores lots of goals but he also likes to give assists. So for selfish reasons I would pick those three.’

The praise for Rodrygo was unexpected. 

Watch FC Barcelona take on Real Madrid in ElClásico on Sunday 19th March at 8.00PM exclusively on Viaplay. To enjoy ElClásico, sign up directly to Viaplay or through Amazon Prime Video Channels

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