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Major League Soccer

David Villa leaving New York City FC

(AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

NEW YORK (AP) David Villa, one of the biggest stars in Major League Soccer, is leaving New York City FC.

The 36-year-old Spanish forward and World Cup winner spent four seasons with the team as its first captain. He plans to continue playing but has not said where.

Villa departs after scoring 80 goals in 124 MLS appearances.

"I can only say thank you, thank you to everybody," Villa said in a statement Wednesday. "First, to City Football Group that gave me the opportunity to come here. To NYCFC and MLS for accepting me. To everybody at the club who helped me day by day. Thank you to the people in the offices, the people working with the team and the coaches and staff. Thank you to my teammates - without them it would have been impossible to be successful. Thank you to the people working in the media that always gave me the respect and the love.

"I remember the first day I showed the jersey and the supporters were there. I would have liked to give the supporters the MLS Cup, but I don't have any doubts that in the next years the club will get it for sure."

Villa scored from the start of his MLS career, getting NYC's first Yankee Stadium goal in a home-opening win vs. New England before going on to score 18 in his debut season.

He had 23 goals in his second season, leading the team to the MLS playoffs for the first time and winning the 2016 MLS MVP award.

In 2017, he scored 24 goals across all competitions despite playing in fewer games than the previous season.

In his final year at NYCFC, Villa dealt with injuries yet led the team in goals with 15 in 23 starts.

Villa scored 59 goals in 98 appearances for Spain from 2004-17, including five goals at the 2010 World Cup as his nation won its first World Cup title. He scored four goals for Spain en route to the 2008 European Championship.

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Updated November 29, 2018

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