Héctor Villalba 22 Midfielder Club Tijuana (on loan from Atlanta United) Argentina
A diminutive, lightning-fast winger with quick feet who loves a goal, feels like he’s been created from an Argentine Attacking Player Template (©). Comfortable as an out-and-out wide man, part of a front three or even as a striker where he has been drafted to cover several times, that pace gets him out of trouble often enough to mask one or two flaws in his game (such as his huge one-footedness - get practicing on your left, Héctor).
An inconsistent player capable of exceptional moments he’s often hero or zero, but the eye for goal is there and the potential big. There’s something unfussy about Villalba and seeing a young player with pace to burn easing through the gears will always be very watchable.
The move to Atlanta was protracted but got across the line in July after a whole load of rumours and then an argument about the transfer fee. He was then immediately loaned out to Club Tijuana with many of Europe’s bigger clubs (notably Roma) retaining an interest in his future development Unfortunately, for the moment, that’s where the story has come to an end.
2016 has been…
…frustrating but may serve him in the long run.
Moving to Atlanta United is a statement from his new club. Villalba is a raw talent, potentially a diamond, and it’s true he’s been on watch lists the world over. Moving to a project such as this - Atlanta United as an expansion franchise don’t actually begin their MLS journey until 2017 - shows a) the level of ambition sold to Villabla and b) the level of faith in making him their Young Designated Player. He becomes a major cog in an emerging machine. With that comes its own pressure but MLS looks like it could be a good league to develop in for the next two to three years, and many will keep him in their scout’s notebooks.
The problem is his move right now, on loan to Club Tijuana (Xolos), just isn’t working. He’s moved from the bench from which he only saw 8 minutes of action earlier in the season (at the time of writing) to all the way out of the match day squad. Worse still for him personally is the fact that Xolos are riding high in the table and not looking to break up a winning first eleven any time soon, so that MLS pre-season back with his parent club can’t really come soon enough.
The move is an interesting one and this is a player who has already tasted success with San Lorenzo to the tune of one league title, one Supercopa and a Copa Libertadores. He will be hungry for more and Atlanta are making some positive noises about where they want to be. Villalba represents their biggest outlay to date and the hiring of Tata Martino as head coach is exciting. We honestly can’t say where this one is heading as we have a player moving to a club that, in essence, doesn’t exist yet. We have no idea if it’s going to be a success or not, but it might be fun to find out.
D The mark’s a stinker but that doesn’t mean it’s all his fault either, who knows what the future brings and all that
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