There was a time when it appeared Luis Manuel Villa Lopez might remain unsigned after having his contract with SD Ponferradina terminated, but he never stopped believing in himself, and now he’s reaping the benefits.
It’s not like Villa — who often goes by Luisma — ever expected to pack up his entire life and move all the way from Spain to India. However, that’s the path that he followed, when Indian Super League club Bengaluru FC came calling before the 2019 season began.
But he wasn’t exactly thrilled about taking the leap, and having to move 5,000 miles to do so, as it was a major change for him.
“At first, I said no, because I had no desire to leave,” Luisma said.
“But, the more they told me about the league, the more I saw it as an amazing opportunity to continue playing football. So, the following morning, I accepted the offer.”
And it was a good thing he did. Bengaluru was competitive the previous season before having interest in Luisma, as they finished in second place in the ISL. It took him some time to get consistent minutes, as he began by coming off the bench, which is often the case with foreign players. Only five foreign players are allowed on the field simultaneously, so Luisma had to really work hard to see playing time. However, that didn’t deter him. All it did was make him work even harder.
“In my case, I didn’t start many games but normally came off the bench to try and make a difference,” he said to Betway Online.
And make a difference he did. Bengaluru finished atop the ISL standings, which set them up for a home-and-away playoff showdown with NorthEast United. They lost 2-1 1 away, in a match Luisma saw action in, but went on to win 3-0 at home to advance.
That big win set them up for a matchup with FC Goa in the final, and Luisma made sure to soak it all in on the day of the epic match.
“On the day of the final, we arrived on the coach, and I remember seeing all the people jumping for joy. Every single person in their colours – both for Bengaluru and Goa – mixing among themselves, no bad vibes.
“It was incredible to see them enjoying themselves like that,” he said.
Luisma would enter the game in the 70th minute, with Bengaluru going on to win, 1-0. That made it clear that the decision he made to leave Spain for India was the correct one, even though he was torn at first.
“It was a difficult decision,” he said. “But in the end, it was the right one. You always have to think that whatever decision you make is the right one.
“I have great memories of Bangalore. They are three months that I will never forget.
“The relationship between the players was really good. The coaching staff made sure there was a good atmosphere around the place, and any dressing room that feels like a family goes a long way together.
“The Indian fans were also incredible,” he said.
It’s unclear where Luisma’s career will go from here. He has, after all, played for Racing Santander, Real Union, Alaves, Amorebieta, Noja, Arenas and Ponferradina in Spain, and also Barnet in England. Now, having played for Bengaluru, he’s made it clear that he can play anywhere in the world, and the sky is the limit for him going forward, as he looks to embark on the next chapter of his prestigious career.