You don't even have to have been born in time to have witnessed the success of the early 1980s, family members will have passed down to generations about how the Argentine World Cup winner came over to Spurs with Ossie Ardiles in 1978 and then came back from being substituted in the initial final to score Wembley's most famous FA Cup Final goal against Manchester City in 1981, carving his name into both Spurs' and English football folklore along the way.
Back at White Hart Lane for the recent match against Manchester City, Ricky received an ovation from all corners and spoke so warmly about the club that he says 'is in my life'.
What is less known about Ricky are his roots - so we asked how the boy from the ranch in the countryside just outside Buenos Aires came to be a professional footballer, and not just any professional footballer, one who went to win the World Cup for his country on home soil and score one of the most famous goals in history.
Tell us about your life back home in Argentina.
Ricky Villa: “I have a ranch with cattle and horses and it’s the life I had before I started to play football. After a career travelling around the world, I’m back home in the same place. I’m pleased about that because I enjoy the quiet life. But it’s always great to come back to England and every time, it just feels like yesterday when we first arrived. I’m very lucky.”
Below: Ricky in action, 1982
Life couldn’t be further apart than what it must have been like winning the World Cup and the FA Cup…
Ricky: “Yes, that’s right! But my career path was completely different to other players. I came in from the countryside, didn’t go into an Academy or anything like that, so I went from the ranch to play professional football in Buenos Aires. People say to me ‘you were a footballer, what are you doing here on the ranch?’ and I just say ‘this is my life’. In fact, it’s always been my life and football was in the middle! I’m very proud of my career, especially at Spurs. The fans were so kind to me and history is so important to them, they know everything about the heritage of the club. It’s now 30 years since I left England, people still remember me and that’s a great honour.”
How did you go from the young boy on the ranch to winning the World Cup with Argentina in 1978?
Ricky: “My home town is a very little town near Buenos Aires, but it’s a football town with many good players, everyone plays. Many people come to watch the local league, someone spotted me and took me to Quilmes Athletic Club. I was 17. I played a few games there, it went well and that was a big change in my life as you could imagine, from the ranch to the city. I hadn’t been to the city very often! It all started from there. The first few years were quite hard, the city is completely different but I love football and that helped me, especially in the bad moments. It just shows that it doesn’t matter where you were born or where you live, if you love playing football, you can reach the top.”
How did life change when you won the World Cup on home soil with Argentina?
Ricky: “It changed completely, turned my life upside down. And when I won the FA Cup with Spurs, it was another big change. Football is about winning and I’m very lucky. I don’t have many medals but the two I have are very special! This is for life. When you win the World Cup and the FA Cup, it’s for life. Everyone remembers you. Now I realise I’m in the history of Tottenham and English football. That is so special.”
Below: Ricky with the FA Cup, 1981
You were back at White Hart Lane for our recent match against Manchester City and received a standing ovation at half-time. That must be a special feeling.
Ricky: “The fans remember when I arrived with Ossie, they remember my goal and I feel great about that. I have to say thanks to the Spurs supporters. This club is in my heart, it’s in my life. This club is like my second home. I’m happy because I managed to give something back. When we arrived the club had spent good money on us and the expectation was to win something. We managed to do that and I contributed with the goal. As I said, that is for life.”
Your name will always be remembered at Tottenham Hotspur, years and years down the line...
Ricky: “It’s very special to think like that, a real honour. I’m a very lucky man.”
Finally, we have to ask you about Ossie…
Ricky: “I’ve known Ossie and his family for over 40 years now. He’s a big friend. Of course, he lives here and I’m in Argentina but as I always say ‘don’t worry, we’re both still the same people!’. I love to come back to visit him, to go with him to White Hart Lane and this time, to the Training Centre, which is incredible. I love visiting Spurs and seeing the fans again.”