Manchester United are keen on Valencia’s teenage midfielder Fran Villalba, according to reports from El Desmarque.
Name: Francisco Jose Villalba Rodrigo
International experience: 23 caps at youth level (U-16s to U-19s)
Club experience: Two senior appearances
Villalba is seen as one of the top youngsters emerging at Valencia. The 18-year-old has been a regular in Los Che’s youth ranks and ‘B’ team for a quite some time and even has two senior appearances under his belt – both of which came under Gary Neville during his ill-fated spell at the Mestalla. In the mould of many Spanish playmakers, the 18-year-old is good on the ball, is able to find space for himself and boasts a strong level of technique, but he stands at just 5ft. 6”, which is a bit of a worry physically.
El Desmarque claim Villalba wants to stay at Valencia for a little while yet, which makes sense given his tender age. However, there is a €4m (£3.6m) release clause in his contract and should the La Liga side show little sign of making him a first-team regular, he could be tempted to look elsewhere – although his chances of game time in Manchester appear just as (if not more) slim. Interestingly, Barcelona are also keen.
It’s hard to tell at this stage, but Valencia have a habit of bringing through talented playmakers. Both Juan Mata and David Silva got their big breaks at the club, while Isco was a youth player there before leaving to join Malaga. However, his diminutive stature may be an issue and the Red Devils need only look at Liverpool’s record with Dani Pacheco and Suso to see the issues with importing slight playmakers from Spain – albeit the game is rapidly changing.