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Barcelona youngster Ilias Akhomach set to join Villarreal

Ilias Akhomach officially left Barcelona upon the expiry of his contract on Friday and is set to join Villarreal, says Fabrizio Romano.

The 19-year-old graduated from the famous La Masia academy before making his first senior appearance for the Blaugrana on Xavi Hernandez’s touchline debut in November 2021.

Xavi handed a skilled winger an unexpected start in a tense 1-0 win over fierce cross-city rivals Espanyol before including him in a starting line-up against Girona in January 2022.

But those two outings remain Akhomach’s only La Liga first-team appearances for Barcelona, as he has vanished from the senior stage following the club’s excessive spending in recent transfer windows.

His lack of opportunities led to his decision to refuse a contract extension at Spotify Camp Nou in March.

Leeds United approached the player’s camp soon after to discuss the possibility of a move to Elland Road.

However, their interest cooled after their failed bid to secure Premier League survival.

Akhomach will stay in La Liga as he prepares to pen a four-year contract at the Estadio de la Ceramica.

Villarreal have convinced the player that it is in his best interest to continue his development in Spain, although it’s still uncertain whether he’ll immediately link up with the first team.

Even if he was to join the youth ranks, he would see a €30 million release clause embedded into this multi-year contract.

With Nicolas Jackson set to complete his switch to Chelsea and Samuel Chukwueze leaving the club as a free agent, Akhomach may be called up by Quique Setien from the get-go.

His first-team prospects in the province of Castellon could grow further if sought-after Yeremi Pino leaves the club in the coming months.

Pino has been linked with Serie A champions Napoli, who see him as a replacement for Hirving Lozano.

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