Valencia starlet Fran Villalba has claimed he never once considered leaving Mestalla, despite proposals from Europe's elite. Real Madrid, Barcelona and, in particular, Manchester United have all been linked with his services in recent times, but the 18-year-old has committed his future to his boyhood club by signing a new four-year deal.
Super Deporte reported in May that Real Madrid were keeping a close eye on the player's development. Gary Neville handed the youngster his first-team debut during his short tenure at Mestalla, fielding him in a La Liga derby against Villlarreal before giving him another shot in the Copa del Rey defeat to Barcelona.
Local publication Plaza Deportivo later reported the Catalans themselves were on notice regarding his development, and were even considering paying his €4m (£3.6m, $4.4m) release clause to lure him to the Nou Camp.
However, Real Madrid and Barcelona faced competition from abroad last week when Villalba's agent, Vicente Fores, told Sport Witness that Manchester United had made an initial approach regarding the player's availability.
"[Manchester United have contacted] me. Just a contact to know his situation. They're already aware. I don't know about Valencia. But I reckon they will make it hard," Forés said. "We've just started talking. It's up to United."
Valencia reacted quickly to that approach and convinced Villalba to snub any proposal to sign a new long-term deal at Mestalla instead, without even having time to hear a formal offer from United.
Villalba said that the decision was straightforward. When asked by Valencia's official radio about the offers he received from European giants, he replied: "My priority has always been to stay here. When they [my agents] told me that I had an offer to continue at Valencia I had no doubt about signing here. It has always been my priority."
The new deal will see Villalba at Valencia for at least four more season, while reports in Spain claim the club have increased his former €4m release clause to an undisclosed new figure in order to ward of the big clubs. Villalba is delighted about the agreement and now hopes to continue his development at Mestalla with hopes of making his definite breakthrough into the first-team in the near future.
"I am very happy. I'm looking forward to enjoying this project that Valencia have offered me to continue here four more seasons. Valencia have always been the team of my life. It is the team where I want to succeed. I joined Valencia with only 5-years-old. I played with [current Liverpool starlet Pedro] Chirivella and I was lucky to progress through the youth ranks. It is the team of my life and it will always be," he said.
"Last year I had the good luck to make my debut with the first team. It was a dream. It has helped me to gain experience and if the chance comes again I'll take it with open arms. But there is still a long way to go. I have to keep working. I will make every effort to succeed at Valencia.