Birmingham City made some critical changes this summer which in turn has seen them have a pretty positive start to the season all things considered – despite losing their last two matches against Fulham and Peterborough.
The Blues have made some expensive mistakes over the years and were deducted nine points in 2019 for breaching the EFL’s Profit and Sustainability rules, but a player who ended up being a cheap punt for the club was Fran Villalba.
Having featured for Valencia’s B team for a number of years, Villalba joined Blues on a free transfer in the summer of 2019 and was brought to the club by Pep Clotet and played 17 times in the first half of his debut campaign.
Villalba quickly dropped down the pecking order though and ended up out on loan at Almeria, and the 2020-21 season saw that original loan extended.
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With no permanent deal on the table though, Villalba has headed to Sporting Gijon of Spain’s second tier on loan in the final year of his contract at St. Andrew’s – but how’s he doing so far this season?
Pretty well, all things considered.
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The 23-year-old has started all six of Gijon’s matches this season in an attacking midfield role and he’s started to add some much-needed goal contributions to his all-round play.
Villalba’s first assist of the season came in a 2-1 win away at Girona, and he’s scored in his last two back-to-back games against Leganes and Eibar respectively.
He seems to be flourishing back in his home nation but the question remains – would he still be able to do a job for Birmingham?
Villalba showed flashes of ability in his early matches but his small stature meant that he was overpowered quite a bit by opposition Championship defences.
Lee Bowyer now has Tahith Chong in the position that Villalba likes to occupy most and you get the feeling that when the season is done and Villalba’s contract is up for renewal, he’ll be heading back to Spain somewhere on a permanent deal.