Former Spain and Barcelona striker David Villa has strenuously denied accusations on social media that he sexually harassed a New York City FC intern during his time at the MLS club.
The claims surfaced when the woman, who is no longer with NYCFC, tweeted that she "rarely went a day" without Villa "grabbing" or "verbally harassing" her during her time with the club. She also alleged that those in charge at NYCFC failed to back her up - and that she has changed careers because of what happened.
Understandably, the club have announced they are launching an internal investigation into the accusations.
However the 38-year-old Villa - who played in New York between 2014 and 2018 - has responded by calling the claims "absolutely false".
A statement, released by the former striker's press agency, began: "I want to flatly deny the accusations made against me through Twitter. These accusations are absolutely false.
"I have not received any communication on this subject before this publication on social networks, neither by this person nor by New York City FC... Of course, I will fully cooperate with NYCFC because these accusations are also directed at the club."
Villa, Spain all-time top scorer, won every major tournament of note throughout his long career, including the World Cup in 2010 and Champions League in 2011. He retired in 2019, a year after he departed the New York club for a season in Japan's J1 League.
His statement continued with a plea that he be presumed innocent until the outcome of any investigation is announced.
"I played four seasons in New York City and I always felt loved and respected by everyone inside and outside the club. Therefore, it is difficult to understand why these false accusations arise when I left New York City in December 2018, more than a year and a half ago. I repeat that these accusations are totally false.
"Bullying is a major problem for society. It is very unfortunate for those who have experienced harassment that other people use it as an excuse to make false accusations.
"As our legal team works to clear up these false accusations, I beg any person or media outlet to please respect my right to the presumption of innocence."
A spokesperson from New York City FC said in a statement to Goal: "New York City Football Club has learned of the allegations made by a former intern by seeing them on social media.
"We take this matter extremely seriously and do not tolerate harassment of any kind in any areas of our organisation. We immediately launched an investigation into the matter."
All imagery: PA Images
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