Grateful Villa bids Atlético adiós for New York City

Spain forward David Villa has left Liga winners and UEFA Champions League runners-up Club Atlético de Madrid to join newly-formed American club New York City FC.

Club Atlético de Madrid striker David Villa brought the curtain down on his successful 2013/14 Liga-winning stint at Los Rojiblancos by saying: "The memories of this year will stay with me for the rest of my life," after agreeing to join New York City FC.

Villa is the first player to sign for the club co-launched by Manchester City FC and New York Yankees, at whose stadium they will be based. He has penned a three-year contract with the side that will make their Major League Soccer debut in 2015.

"Throughout my career I've always tried to keep pushing myself to achieve new targets and this represents another important goal for me," Villa said. "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."

Arriving at Atlético last July following a rewarding three seasons at FC Barcelona – where he won two domestic championships, the UEFA Champions League, and a UEFA Super Cup, among other titles – Villa registered 13 goals in 36 league games as Los Colchoneros lifted their first top-flight title for 18 years. The 32-year-old striker also appeared in seven of Atlético's UEFA Champions League games en route to an eventual final loss against rivals Real Madrid CF in Lisbon last month.

Spain's leading marksman with 56 goals, Villa said: "I found a great family in the dressing room at Atlético and enjoyed the fantastic relationship between the club and its fans. This season surpassed all of my expectations and it was a very positive experience for me."

The former Real Sporting de Gijón youth-team product, who went on to enjoy Copa del Rey successes with Real Zaragoza and Valencia CF, added: "I'm happy I was able to help Atlético to win a long-awaited title for the fans – one which they hadn't won for a long time."

Speaking about the added-time equaliser by Madrid's Sergio Ramos that eventually led to the Rojiblancos extra-time downfall in May's UEFA Champions League showpiece, Villa added: "There is still that thorn in the side of not being able to hold out for 90 seconds more to win the Champions League, but at the end of the day, it was a very successful campaign for us."

Named in Spain coach Vicente del Bosque's 23-man squad for this month's FIFA World Cup finals, Villa – top scorer in his country's UEFA EURO 2008 and 2010 World Cup triumphs – offered some clues about his future plans after the tournament in Brazil. "I am very excited about a [new] and important project for me and for my family [and one that represents] another challenge," he said, adding: "I have received an offer I couldn't refuse.

"I would like to thank those connected with Atlético – like El Cholo [coach Diego Simeone], [club president] Enrique Cerezo and [managing director] Miguel Ángel Gil Marín – who let me know that they wanted me to stay. To Atlético fans, I would like to say that there is one more supporter among them and I will now enjoy the successes of the team from afar."