CAPE TOWN - Finally, after the greatest summer a soccer player could hope for, it seems even those beyond Spain's borders will accept that David Villa is one of the greatest strikers of our generation.

If the frequency with which he and his team score were not enough, nor Spain's wonderful Euro 2008 run, nor Villa's acquisition by Barcelona, then this World Cup will surely convince any remaining doubters.

When Fernando Torres remains limp, and Xavi and Andres Iniesta are passable but their weapons not perfectly calibrated, Spain relies on Villa alone. His numbers until now are well known - five goals in five matches. But more impressive still is his impeccable timing.

The 28-year-old from Asturias has saved his national team time and again. His brace beat Honduras virtually single-handedly, and he alone turned the tide against Chile and Iberian rival Portugal.

And of course it was Villa's dramatic winner that pushed Spain over Paraguay and into tonight's epic semifinal with Germany.

Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola knew just what he was doing in dropping 40 million euro on the diminutive striker.

And Spain coach Vicente del Bosque minces no words: Villa is "un tesoro nacional" - a national treasure. "What he does speaks louder than anything else," del Bosque said. "He's always in the right place at the right time."

Vaya con Dios

Villa's talent is so dizzying that some are convinced it is the product of divine intervention.

"He's blessed from above," said Spain keeper and captain Iker Casillas after the Paraguay win. "There's no other explanation."

Villa himself takes another view. "Of course I want to keep scoring, but I think more about the success of the team as a whole. If we don't win this game we haven't done anything. If we don't bring home the Cup it's as if we haven't done a thing here," he said.

If there's anyone who can bring gold to the streets of Madrid and Barcelona, Valencia and Seville, it's King David.