Jon Toral has completed his proposed switch from Arsenal to Rangers, it was confirmed on Thursday (12 January). Subject to international clearance, the 21-year-old moves to Ibrox Stadium on loan until the end of the season and will reunite with former Brentford manager Mark Warburton having spent the first half of 2016-17 with La Liga strugglers Granada.
Toral endured a frustrating six-month spell at Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes, appearing just six times as manager Paco Jemez quickly paid the price for presiding over the club's worst start to a campaign for more than 70 years. Largely overlooked by successor Lucas Alcaraz, the versatile Catalan midfielder did at least provide a reminder of his quality with a terrific goal in November's Copa del Rey victory over Osasuna.
Recalled by Arsenal on Tuesday, Toral joins a Rangers outfit that went into the current winter break on the back of a 2-1 home defeat by fierce Glasgow rivals Celtic. Warburton's side, who face back-to-back fixtures against Motherwell at the end of January, currently trail the runaway leaders by 19 points and face pressure from Aberdeen for that runners-up spot.
"Jon is a very intelligent boy. I liked working with Jon, he came through the Barcelona academy and he moved to Arsenal alongside Hector Bellerin," the manager told rangers.co.uk. "He's technically gifted, tremendous left foot, sees the pass early, scores goals and did a great job at Birmingham. He was the Player of the Year and won Goal of the Year and fully justified as well, so having worked with him and watched him at Birmingham there are no doubts about his ability.
"I think he was frustrated at Granada not to get more pitch time, certainly his talent warrants that, so delighted to get him on board. Again, all thanks to Arsenal. We have a good relationship but Arsenal have worked closely with us and we are very thankful to them for their help. A very, very talented player, a very respectful player, an articulate individual so delighted to work with him."
Having made quite an impression on Warburton by helping Brentford to reach the play-off semi-finals in 2014-2015, Toral, yet to appear at senior level for Arsenal, scored eight goals in 38 outings during a successful season-long stint at Birmingham last term. The Gunners are yet to comment officially on this latest loan, although Arsene Wenger did recently say that he saw a move to Rangers as a "good transition".
In other Arsenal news, Ismael Bennacer has been called into the Algeria squad for this month's Africa Cup of Nations. The U23 regular, a former French youth player who switched his international allegiance last year, was cut from the provisional travelling party for Gabon but has now been readied by coach Georges Leekens following an injury to Bologna's Saphir Taider. The Desert Foxes open their Group B campaign against Zimbabwe in Franceville on Sunday before facing Tunisia and Senegal.