By George Overhill

14th Jan, 2022 | 2:40pm

David Villa highly impressed by Rangers signing James Sands

David Villa was wowed by new Rangers signing James Sands while they were teammates at New York City FC, according to David Lee.

The sporting director told The Athletic that the midfielder impressed the Spanish legend with a performance as a 16 year old.

After an exhibition match where he played alongside Andrea Pirlo in midfield, the ex-Barcelona striker reportedly said: “Ooh, this boy has something really special.”

Lee said: “James was 16 and played as a holding midfielder and was just fantastic. It was a packed stadium and an incredible atmosphere, he was the most calm player on the pitch.”

High praise

The signs are good for the rest of Gers’ season, and potentially the long-term future if their new signing has been drawing rave reviews from such illustrious sources.

While Italian World Cup Winner Pirlo was not the player he once was after he made the trip across the Atlantic, for a teenager to perform so well alongside such a big name shows a lot of maturity.

And for ex-Barcelona man Villa, a winner of both a World Cup and a European Championship, to identify such quality in Sands suggests fans at Ibrox could be in for something special.

After all, Villa played alongside two of the greatest midfielders of their generation in Xavi and Andres Iniesta so he clearly knows a good midfielder when he sees one.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst has been relatively quiet in the transfer market this month, with Sands the only notable addition.

But as the manager’s priority is thought to be keeping his first team together in the face of interest from other clubs, and a successful window so far being registered in that sense, perhaps not much needs adding.

The Light Blues sit comfortably at the top of the league and have a perfect record domestically since the manager arrived, so if the new signing can slot into that and show some of the quality that impressed Villa they will be tough to overhaul.

In other Rangers news, this big transfer could reportedly be sealed within 24 hours.