Birmingham City had a very busy summer, with Aitor Karanka named as the club’s new manager, and he immediately set about reshaping the squad.
One of those to depart was Fran Villalba, with the winger extending his stay with Almeria on loan until the of the current season.
There was a lot of excitement around the Spaniard when he arrived at St. Andrew’s, and whilst he showed flashes of his undoubted talent in his first six months in the Championship, he wasn’t consistent enough.
So, a move seemed to make sense, and Villalba clearly did enough in the first few months to warrant an extended stay with the La Liga 2 outfit.
And, this season has gone reasonably well for the 22-year-old as well. A return of three goals and one assist from 18 games is solid, when you take into account that he has been a substitute for many of those appearances.
Can you name the club’s top goalscorer from the last 13 seasons?
As for the team, Almeria are flying high in the Spanish second tier right now. They’re third in the table, level on points with second-placed Espanyol as they chase automatic promotion.
Of course, whether the side are successful in their promotion push will have a big impact on Villalba’s long-term future.
Playing in La Liga would give Almeria more financial freedom to make the move permanent if they wanted, but it’s unclear as to whether he would get a deal with a top-flight team.
For Blues, they have uncertainty of their own. The club are battling to stay in the Championship, and his future won’t be addressed until the summer.
Villalba will enter the final year of his deal at St. Andrew’s, so it may be Birmingham’s last chance to get a decent fee for the player.
If Karanka remains in charge, a departure seems inevitable, but even if he left it seems hard to see how the ex-Numancia breaks into a Blues squad that is packed full of options out wide.
Thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.