The Gunners’ interest in the Spain international during his days at Camp Nou had long been rumoured, and Villa explained that it was only Barca’s reluctance to sell that prevented him from moving to the Premier League last January.
“Arsenal’s offer was very good for the club and great for me,” he said to Canal +. “But they [Barcelona], did not deem it feasible for me to leave at that time. I was told that I was needed.”
Villa would eventually join Atletico in July for 5.1 million euros and, with eight goals in 15 league games, has helped the Rojiblancos to second place in la Liga, level on points at the top of the table with his former club.
And the 32-year-old could not hide his delight at his performances for his new side, though he maintained that he derived his primary pleasure from the fortunes of the team as a whole.
“I'm happy because my goals and performance on the field have helped the team to achieve their goals, because after all, as you know, I think more collective than individual,” he added.
Villa feels that Atletico, which has been impressive both domestically and abroad this season, is capable of great things, and commended the influence of coach Diego Simeone.
“This team was already complete [when I joined], and have been playing well for some years, being courageous and winning many important things,” he continued. “They excited me from the offset, and have made me feel that the more I have integrated into the club, and Diego Simeone has the motivating virtues of Luis Aragones and Pep Guardiola.”
But Spain’s leading goalscorer still had nothing but praise for Barcelona, and insisted that there was never friction between himself and former Blaugrana teammate Lionel Messi.
“Both Leo [Messi] and I, as with all teammates that I’ve had at other clubs, had a very good relationship,” he said. “The club has always shown me great affection, and fulfilled their promise to sell me in the summer. I have only words of gratitude for Barca.”