When Jon Toral arrived at Arsenal in 2011 from Barcelona’s academy along with Hector Bellerin, there was much excitement about the midfielder, so what happened and where is he now?
The 16-year-old Jon Toral who turned up at Arsenal in the summer of 2011 from the Barcelona youth ranks is now 28.
Unlike Bellerin, who signed at the same time, Toral’s name is not so well known amongst football fans, especially not those outside of the club’s he’s played for.
So what happened to the player of whom great things were expected?
During his time under contract with Arsenal, Toral had spells on loan at Brentford, Birmingham, Granada, and Rangers before finally being sold to Hull for £2.97m in 2017 without making a senior appearance for the Gunners.
Sadly, Toral’s time at Arsenal was largely disrupted by congenital defects in the meniscus in both knees.
“I was 16 at the time [I moved to Arsenal],” Toral said in 2019.
“I’d spent eight years at Barcelona and a scout at the Nike Premier Cup in Manchester, they saw me at Arsenal and then just contacted me to see if I wanted to come over and continue my career at Arsenal.
“It’s something that as a kid with my mum English and stuff I always watched a lot of Premier League football and that’s a dream just to make it to the Premier League and I saw that as a chance to doing that.
“16 to 18, yeah, those two years were really tough.
“My first one [surgery] was when I was still playing for Barcelona. Already signed for Arsenal.
“So to start at a new club with a knee injury and then having to have another surgery later on in the same knee and then knowing that the other knee needs surgery as well was a bit tough mentally because I was moving to a new country, a new club, and all you want to do is do well and impress.
“But I guess that’s just made me the player I am today as well, which made me feel, know how it feels and you’re not even able to train when all your teammates are training.
“It happened to be a genetic issue with the meniscus. Now it’s sorted, it’s been like, what, six years now no injury. Injury-free with my knees. So, touch wood, that continues that way and I’m quite comfortable with them now.”
Sadly, his next knee problem was just around the corner and it seems like they have done enough to disrupt his career that, like Jack Wilshere, we will never know what might have been.
Problems struck once again in 2019, forcing Toral to miss 28 games. A thigh issue then kept him out for another three before groin problems sidelined him for seven matches after he moved to Birmingham.
An unknown problem kept him out for 75 days in 2021 and he has only just returned to fitness before Christmas after another 44 day period on the sidelines with a ‘bruise’.
Last summer, Toral was released by Birmingham after signing on a free from Hull the summer before. He managed just 18 appearances all season, with two goals and two assists. Lee Bowyer, Birmingham manager, opted to let him move on.
“It’s difficult but that’s football, very rarely do you have a footballer that plays their whole career at one club,” said Bowyer about a player who had played for four other clubs by this point, not including Arsenal.
“You can count on one hand how often that happens, especially in today’s game.
“It is difficult, not nice but players that will be leaving will move on hopefully to clubs that will work for them because obviously you want the best for them.”
Toral now plays for OFI Crete where he signed a contract until 2024.
In the season just finished, he’s managed 25 appearances, scoring eight and assisting two in the Greek Super League.
With a market value of around €800k, the former Arsenal kid is their joint second most valuable player, his value having risen by €150k in the last six months.