Birmingham City loanee Jon Toral is hoping he will have the opportunity to return to Arsenal in the summer following an impressive spell at the Championship side. The former Barcelona academy standout says he is enjoying his time at St Andrew's but is eager to follow in the footsteps of players like Joel Campbell and Francis Coquelin, who spent time on loan before establishing themselves in the Gunners first team.
The 21-year-old moved to the Arsenal academy in 2011 alongside his close friend Hector Bellerín, after garnering a reputation as one of the brightest prospects in La Masia. The midfielder, however, has struggled to make the impact expected during his opening years in North London after being forced to undergo four different operations – two in each knee.
Toral has turned the situation around though and shown his true ability in the last two campaigns with loan spells at Championship sides, first with Brentford and now at Birmingham, where he has become one of the side's stars. He has also developed into an unexpected joint top scorer, alongside Clayton Donaldson, scoring six in 26 appearances despite playing in midfield.
His manager Gary Rowett has praised the Spaniard repeatedly during the season, and earlier this month admitted he would live to get the player's services on a permanent basis should Arsenal decide to part ways with him.
"If Jon Toral became available and there was a £2.5m fee on him I think I would be trying to push the club to see if we could do that one as well. At the moment we are pushing hard within our limits and it's very, very positive," Rowett said to Birmingham Mail.
Toral, however, hopes his form will see him secure a dream return to the Emirates Stadium instead.
"I have two more seasons with Arsenal. The idea is to go back and join their first team," the former Barcelona starlet said to Catalunya Radio.
"I am very happy at Birmingham. I'm playing regularly and I'm very happy for how the season is going. The aim is to get minutes in a competitive league like the Championship. Last year it was difficult because I had less experience. But [the loan at Brentford] helped me a lot ahead of this season. Here, since the beginning I felt very comfortable because I already knew the league."
The Spaniard says Arsene Wenger is closely monitoring the situation of his young loanees, as demonstrated in recent times with the likes of Campbell and Coquelin.
"Wenger is always thinking about the future of the club. He has always been very aware of the youth and the truth is that it helps us because we know they're watching us," the Arsenal starlet said. "Other players have also left the team in recent years because there was no place for them in the Arsenal first team to find minutes, like Joel Campbell. The truth is that I am confident and eager [to return]."
Another example is his friend Bellerin, who has established himself as Arsenal's first-choice right-back following a short spell on loan with Watford.
"I have been always convinced that once he had the option to take the Arsenal right-back spot he will take it for good. I know him well, as a person and as a footballer, and I am well aware about his talent," he said, hoping one day to share the Emirates dressing room with his pal.