One of the loan players you may have forgotten we still own is Akram Afif. He played briefly for Sevilla’s youth team and later for Villarreal’s, and was signed in the summer of 2016 from Belgian side Eupen. Villarreal lent him to Sporting Gíjón, then back to Eupen, and most recently he’s returned to Qatar on loan, playing for Al-Sadd.
Afif has had a fine season there, scoring 26 times in 22 games, and adding 15 assists; he was voted the league’s most valuable player.
Which begs the question: what next? He’s only 22, and even three years ago impressed in the preseason and was decent with Sporting in a few appearances, but his lack of Spanish, and the fact that even if he speaks English (I don’t know if he does) there were no English speakers to help him, was a problem.
His contract with Villarreal runs through next season. I suppose Villarreal could sell him to Al Sadd, but doing that would beg the question, why did we buy him at all, if at the end we’re simply selling him back for very little?
If the language barrier isn’t the problem it was in 2016, then I’d think he ought to get a chance to train with Villarreal and make the team. Yes, he’s a big fish in a small pond in the Qatari league (Al Sadd have Xavi and Gabi playing with them, after they left Spain on free transfers; Xavi is 39 now, Gabi 35). But, Afif has also played well for the Qatari national team, scoring in their 3-1 Asian Cup triumph over Japan in February.
Qatar is one of the invited teams participating in the Copa America—they are in a group with Paraguay, Argentina and Colombia, so keep an eye on those matches in late June. I am sure some Villarreal staff will be watching to see how he does playing against strong competition.