Spanish second-tier side Sporting Gijon have the option to purchase Birmingham City outcast Fran Villalba for €750,000 on the expiration of his loan deal at the Estadio El Molinon at the end of the season, according to El Comercio.
The advanced midfielder has endured a torrid time at St Andrew’s since his arrival in the West Midlands back in 2019, making 17 appearances for the Blues and scoring just once, failing to register a single assist as he struggled to adapt to life in England.
He spent just five months with the Blues before being shipped out on loan to Almeria with an option to make the deal permanent, although this is something they decided not to pursue.
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They did recruit him on loan against for the 2020/21 campaign, before heading back to Spain this summer on a temporary deal with Sporting Gijon who currently ply their trade in the LaLiga SmartBank division.
As per El Comercio, Villalba has settled in well at his new loan side and this has been translated to on-the-pitch matters, scoring twice and recording one assist in six league appearances so far and looks set to continue improving on that record after becoming a key player for the Spanish second-tier outfit.
With this, they may decide to trigger the €750,000 option they have in their loan agreement with Birmingham City, which would bring down the curtain on a very underwhelming career for the Blues.
There’s one puzzling situation that makes this deal a confusing one, because his deal at St Andrew’s actually comes to an end next summer after signing a three-year deal on his arrival back in 2019.
Unless he’s signed an extension like Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa did ahead of his temporary move to Napoli, something that hasn’t been reported about Villalba if so, he will be free to walk away from his parent side in less than 12 months time.
There could be the option to trigger this clause to make the deal permanent before the end of the season which would make sense, considering this sort of thing has happened before with Elias Kachunga at Huddersfield Town a few seasons back.
€750,000 is still very cheap for someone who came to Birmingham with high hopes though, so if he impresses in his home nation and Sporting Gijon do decide to make this deal permanent, whether it’s for that fee or on a free transfer, they will be getting a bargain.
For the Blues, this deal hasn’t worked out so they will be glad to see the back of the 23-year-old. And the feeling is probably mutual.