Today’s EPM reports that Vicente Iborra has signed with Villarreal—all that remains is for Leicester City to sign and return the already agreed-to documentation between the two clubs.
Iborra is joining Villarreal for a fee of €10m, which is less than the €15m Leicester wanted, while the Submarine had proposed a loan with mandatory purchase option. It’s not clear when the €10m is to be paid, but what is known is that Iborra passed his medical checks and should begin practicing with Villarreal very soon—and should be available for the Espanyol match this week.
Iborra is a box-to-box midfielder who came to prominence with Levante (he’s a Valencian Community native, born in Moncada, north of Valencia proper.) While he’s been primarily a defensive midfielder, he can deploy in a more attacking role as well. His time at Sevilla (2013-17) was marked by Unai Emery deploying him in a more attacking position, and he scored 24 goals over those four years.
Leicester City signed him for €15m from Sevilla in the summer 2017 transfer window, but while he became something of a fan favorite and put in some good performances, word was his family found it difficult to settle in the UK. Now they’ll be much closer to home.
Interestingly, Sr. Lizarraga states in his article that Villarreal nearly succeeded in signing Iborra at the very end of the summer transfer window. You might remember we signed Manuel Iturra (since released) in early September after the window had officially closed, as Malaga had released him. Iborra was the fellow we wanted all along.
His height will help us for sure when it comes to set pieces, both attacking and defending. He’s not a great tackler, but he is good at blocking the ball in midfield and creating turnovers that way—he ought to offer some physicality in the doble pivote in a 4-4-2 or the ‘2’ of a 4-2-3-1.
Now, Sr. Lizarraga also says we are looking for a central defender (makes perfect sense) and a ‘creative midfielder’, which I find a bit hard to imagine given our glut of midfielders, unless he is referring to someone who will play on the left (a Denis Suarez-type). And he also says “there could be some surprise exit.”
I’m thinking Pablo Fornals or Alfonso Pedraza would be the most likely candidates; Fornals has interested Barcelona, allegedly, and Pedraza’s loan to Leeds and good season at Alavés might induce a bid from an EPL club. Of course, if I could guess who might leave, it wouldn’t be a surprise, would it?