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Pablo Fornals has completed a move from Malaga to Villarreal in time for the forthcoming season. Arsenal had been linked with the Spanish midfielder in recent months but the ‘Yellow Submarine’ have now announced his signing after matching his €12m (£10.7m, $14m) release clause.
The 21-year-old midfielder has established himself as a key player for Malaga since making his debut with the first-team in September 2015 during a goalless draw at Real Madrid.
His development quickly attracted the attention of the bigger clubs. It also saw him earn a surprising call-up from former Spanish manager Vicente Del Bosque for a friendly against Bosnia Herzegovina on May 2016.
The versatile midfielder continued his impressive progress at Malaga during the 2016-2017 campaign, scoring six goals and providing three assists in 32 La Liga appearances.
On February Marca disclosed that Arsene Wenger was closely following his development ahead of making a move to lure him to Arsenal.
The Mirror and other English publications also repeated those claims after reporting that Wenger had identified Fornals as the long-term replacement for Santi Cazorla – who also joined Arsenal from Malaga in 2012.
Last month The Mirror insisted that the Malaga midfielder remained on Arsenal’s shopping list alongside the likes of new signing Alexandre Lacazettte, Leicester City’s winger Riyad Mahrez and Monaco star Thomas Lemar.
However, Wenger will need to look somewhere else to bolster his midfield after Villarreal have decided to meet his €12m release clause to complete his signing from Malaga.
“Villarreal CF and Pablo Fornals have come to an agreement for the native of Castellón to play for the Yellow Submarine for the next five seasons,” the La Liga side have confirmed. “Fornals returns to the club that he represented for five years as part of the Yellows Academy from the 2003-04 season through to the 2007-08 campaign.”
Fornal’s move to Villarreal is Malaga’s third major exit of the summer after having previously sold Sandro to Everton and Ignacio Camacho to Wolfsburg.