JOHANNESBURG -- There is something extraordinary about David Villa.
That seems like an odd statement considering what Spain's striker has done during this World Cup. He is tied for the leading goal scorer in the tournament with five goals and basically has carried Spain on his back.
Of course he's extraordinary. But it's more than that. There is something about the 28-year-old that goes beyond what he does on the field.
That something is class. He exudes it. He doesn't have to learn it. He just has it.
It's rare to see a superstar such as Villa operate the way he does. You rarely see him in the headlines outside of what he does on the pitch. He married his childhood sweetheart and has two kids. Villa is big into charity events and shies away from any controversies.
Even though he's been one of the top scorers in Europe for the past few years, he remained at the smaller Spanish side Valencia for longer than anyone thought he would.
Villa could have made millions but repeatedly indicated he wanted to stay at Valencia. He would go only if his club felt that a transfer was necessary to help them.
How often have you heard a superstar say that? He spent five years at Valencia. He had a terrific relationship with the team and its fans.
At the European championships in 2006, he was a goalscoring machine. His performance shot him in the football's global spotlight. There were immediate rumours of him moving to Real Madrid.
Unlike some of today's superstars (Cristiano Ronaldo) who stoked the fires of controversy, Villa let everything swirl around him. When Euro was over, he was told by Valencia that he could remain there. There was no fuss, no problems.
That's what he did until just before the World Cup when Barcelona worked out a deal with Valencia for $40 million euros. Like just about everything Villa does, it went smoothly.
"He is one of the best goal scorers in the world, if not the best," said Spanish keeper Iker Casillas. "Spain is lucky to have Villa. What can I say about my teammate and friend? And there's one more thing, an important thing, which is that for all the goals he scores and all that things that are said about him, he is still very humble."
Villa almost never got the chance to become a football player. When he was four and playing football, an older player fell on his leg, breaking it badly. Doctors were worried they would have to amputate the leg. He spent six months in a cast.
His father was a miner and when he came home from the mine, he would spend hours each day teaching his son to kick the ball with his left foot while his right leg was in a cast.
Villa may be the one player who is worth whatever money someone pays for him. While at Valencia the last five years, he scored 107 goals in 166 league games. His scoring record for Spain is just as stunning. He has 43 goals in 63 games.
His greatest strength though is how he responds to pressure. Villa may not score every game but he shows up for every game and works as hard as possible. Even when his team is not going well he never disappears, never sulks.
He is especially deadly the bigger the game and the brighter the stage.
In this World Cup, Villa is the main reason Spain is in the final against the Netherlands. He scored both goals in a 2-0 win against Honduras and once in a 2-1 win over Chile. He scored in the second half to give Spain a 1-0 win over Portugal before scoring very late to eliminate Paraguay 1-0 in a quarterfinal game.
It was all done with the utmost professionalism and class.
Like goals, those are words that seem to follow Villa wherever he goes.