It helped, of course, that he scored the greatest goal in the history of the FA Cup, when he weaved his magic to score the winner against Manchester City in 1981…
Ricardo Julio Villa was brought up on a farm in the Argentine Pampas where his job was to milk the cows each morning before riding his horse to school.
Today, he lives back on his own 740-acre ranch in the town of Roque Pérez, about 100km from Buenos Aires.
“It’s the life I had before I started to play football," he said.
"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.”
It was down on the farm that Villa spent all his spare time playing football, dribbling around machinery and livestock and pretending he was the next Alfredo di Stefano.
The trouble was there was nobody to pass to. In fact, Villa attributes his world famous goal entirely to his upbringing.
“I spent a lot of time on my own growing up so I found it hard to pass the ball,” he explains. “So that goal came from my childhood, where you don't need anyone, just a few players around you to cause a bit of distraction and give you enough time to dribble towards goal.”
When Tottenham manager Keith Burkinshaw travelled to Argentina after the World Cup in 1978 he did so with the intention of signing just one man, the diminutive midfielder Osvaldo ‘Ossie’ Ardiles.
But he returned with two players.
Having done the deal for Ardiles, Burkinshaw suggested he also sign his friend and international roommate Ricky Villa and the deal – £750,000 for the two players – was done in a day.
“I said to Ricky, ‘Come on, we’re going to England’,” says Ardiles. “He said ‘What? P*** off! I’m very happy here.”
So much so, in fact, that Villa wouldn’t even buy a mirror for his house because he didn’t see the point in purchasing anything that was going to be too large to take back to Argentina with him when his contract was completed.
“Ricky wanted to go home from the moment he got here,” suggests Ardiles.
Though Villa was included in Argentina’s squad for the victorious World Cup campaign on home soil in 1978, making two substitute appearances against Poland and Brazil, his international career was curtailed by the emergence of a young player by the name of Diego Maradona.
Maradona had failed to make the cut for the final 22 for the Finals but manager Cesa Luis Menotti soon put him in the side once the World Cup was over.
And that was that for Villa. He made just 17 appearances for his country.
“Unfortunately for me he played in my position” explains Villa. “When he did come into the side after the World Cup, I never played for the national team again."
When Villa was substituted in the 1981 FA Cup Final against Manchester City, the sight of his disconsolate figure trudging off to the dressing room, his socks round his ankles, suggested his FA Cup race was run.
Not a bit of it.
After the first game ended 1-1, Spurs won the replay 3-2, with Villa getting the winner in the 76th minute.
And what a winner.
Taking a pass from Tony Galvin 40 yards out, he drove towards goal, weaving this way and that past three, four City players before sliding the ball under the body of City keeper Joe Corrigan and racing off to the dugout to celebrate.
Indeed, it was such a stunning solo goal it was named the Wembley Goal of the Century in 2001. “I have to recognise that I am a little part of the history of English football," says Villa.
“That goal almost makes it seem as though I only played one match and only scored one goal!” he grumbles.
“My whole life and all the questions I'm asked are about that goal.”
After their win in the 1981 FA Cup Final replay, the Spurs team were invited to a black tie gala reception where the team would meet Princess Anne.
Except nobody told Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles what the dress code was.
The pair then rocked up in his jeans only to be given jackets and a tie and told to smarten themselves up.
It wasn’t just them. Even their wives were unaware who, according to Ardiles, turned up looking like “they were going shopping”.
The Falklands War between Britain and Argentina in 1982 proved to be a troubling time for Villa and his compatriot Ossie Ardiles, a situation compounded by Spurs’ progress in their defence of their FA Cup title.
With the conflict raging in the South Atlantic, Ardiles decided to sit out Tottenham’s games and, in the summer of 1982, opted for a loan move to Paris St. Germain.
But Ricky Villa stayed put and played every match – apart from the final itself. Instead, he decided to give the game a miss, arguing that this most English of events shouldn’t be overshadowed by anything else.
“I was criticised in Argentinian newspapers,” he recalled. “They said, 'Ricky is happy in the enemy country'. The stupid b*******. I was professional, I had a contract, and people here treated me very well.
“Sometimes I was booed, but that was all. An English player in Buenos Aires at the same time could never have stayed. It was easy for me to stay here. But it was not difficult to decide to miss the '82 Cup final. I knew history would say whether I was right or not."
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