Despite being heavily linked with a move to Arsenal in the January transfer window, Villareal’s Pablo Fornals will reportedly be joining West Ham this summer.
The Hammers have taken advantage of the financial crisis at the Spanish club to agree to a €27m transfer fee for the Spanish playmaker.
Here are five things to know about the newest West Ham transfer target.
5. Full Spain International
The 23-year-old has featured twice already for La Roja, with his appearances coming two years apart and both times (oddly enough) in friendlies against Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Celta’s Brais Mendez stole the headlines as he netted the only goal of the game in Gran Canaria. However, Fornals also looked impressive when he came on in the second half, replacing Dani Ceballos for Luis Enrique’s side.
With Andres Iniesta and David Silva out of the picture at international level, there is more room in the squad for creative starlets. Expect Fornals to win more caps in 2019 as Enrique tries to move on from a mixed start in 2018.
4. Fancy Feet
Being a creative player in Spain, naturally Fornals has some pretty big shoes to fill at international level. Luckily he has pretty good feet.
Impeccable technique and fancy footwork might seem like par for the course when talking about an attacking midfielder in 2019, but Fornals’ skills in a match against Athletic Club went viral back in September 2018, as he left Iñigo Martinez for dead, with the footballing equivalent of the magic cup and balls trick.
Oh, he also scored possibly La Liga’s goal of the season in the very same game.
3. Assist King
As well as skill, Fornals also boasts that all important end product.
More a scorer of great goals than a great scorer of goals (his career best saw him net six for Malaga in 2016/17), Villarreal’s number eight is, however, something of an assist machine.
In his first season at the Estadio de la Cerámica, Fornals laid on 12 goals for teammates – the joint highest in La Liga in 2017/18, along with Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi. Some company.
He suffered greatly from Villarreal’s downturn in form in the 2018/19 season, scoring just five goals and providing six assists from 50 appearances in all competitions. But perhaps with a better attacking lineup in front of him he could return to the form that made him the joint assist king of La Liga.
*Statistics from WhoScored.com
2. Cazorla’s Heir
Ok, they are both Spanish, skilful and playmakers but the similarities don’t stop there.
Both came through the youth ranks at Villarreal before shining at Malaga. Should Fornals complete a move to the Premier League, his career path might start to seem a bit uncanny.
After Fornals’ attention-grabbing performance against Athletic Club in September, AS ran a story noting how, ten years before, Cazorla, wearing the number eight shirt Fornals now owns, had come of age for the Yellow Submarine in the same fixture with a man of the match display. Spooky.
Let’s just hope Fornals has better luck with injuries.
1. Low Release Clause Amid Financial Difficulties
Perhaps most intriguingly for West Ham fans is the fact that Fornals’ buyout clause is set at a not very off putting at all €33m (£29.4m). However due to Villarreal’s financial difficulties, they’re eager to sell and will reportedly let the player leave for just €27m.
In today’s market of just about anyone you’ve ever heard of automatically commanding an astronomical fee, Fornals potentially represents a fairly low risk option financially for the Hammers.