Manchester United are keen on signing Valencia midfielder Fran Villalba, according to reports from Spain.
Villalba came through Valencia’s youth system and broke into the first-team back in 2015, aged just 17.
He was handed his La Liga debut by Gary Neville on New Year’s Eve last year, coming on in the 84th minute against Villarreal, but has failed to make any other senior appearances for Los Che.
And according to El Demarque, Jose Mourinho wants to activate the youngster’s €4m release clause.
One thing that should be immediately noted when analysing Villalba is his height – a mere 5ft 6, one inch smaller than Juan Mata. A diminutive stature is not uncommon amongst young midfielders from Spain, of course. In fact, many of Spain’s established midfield talents are notoriously small: Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergi Roberto, Santi Cazorla, Isco, and so on.
A key characteristic that underpins the approach of Villalba – and indeed many other Spanish midfielders – is an overwhelming level of assurance on the ball. These are individuals who, to make up for their lack of strength, master the qualities of technique and vision. Anybody who has watched the 18-year-old play can tell, almost straight away, that he was reared in a Johan Cruyff-esque kind of way: playing with his brain as opposed to his body.
Whether he will replicate the endeavours of his decorated Spanish colleagues remains to be seen. The foundations, however, are very much there.