Pune: Indian Super League franchise FC Pune City on Wednesday got a big boost to its academy plans as its product Md. Ashique Kuruniyan will head to La Liga club Villarreal to play for its third team on loan.
This is the first time a home grown Indian academy player has been selected by a top Spanish club to ply his trade in Europe.
Excited at the development, FC Pune City CEO Gaurav Modwel said, "This is a testimony of the fact that India is brimming with talent and the right talent needs the right guidance to make the right moves. Ashique has the correct attitude and an appetite for goals.
"He will only get better with his stint in Spain and I won't be surprised if he goes on to have a longer spell in Spain beyond the one year loan that we have agreed with Villarreal CF.
"I would like to thank Villarreal for taking this step and I hope this turns out to be first of many such initiatives that we will take together for the growth of Indian football."
The Kerala-born youngster has already made the right noises when he was picked for the India Under-19 team for the AFC U-19 Championships in Palestine. Prior to that, Ashique represented India for the Under-18 side in the FAM-Frenz Asia Champions Trophy where he scored a wonderful solo goal for India that brought him under the spotlight.
Primarily a winger, Ashique can play across the forward line.
Ashique said he was keen to make a mark in Spain and come back a better player and play for India and FC Pune City both.
"This is a dream come true. All these years, we would admire these top clubs and their players from afar, but thanks to FC Pune City and Villarreal, I will get a chance to play at one of the most respected clubs in Spain," said Ashique.
Villarreal CF's President Fernando Roig said this is just the beginning of identifying good talent from India and giving them a chance to play against in our youth team.
"Villarreal CF was more than happy to absorb Md. Ashique Kuruniyan in their side because we saw the spark in him. Our coaches will work on him and we will aim to realise his true potential.
"His development as a player is given and this will only bode well for football in India in general. We thank FC Pune City for facilitating this move and hope this inspires a lot more young talent to make it big in Europe."
La Liga President Javier Tebas said this is just the beginning of identifying good talent from India and giving them a chance to play against the best in the business.
"We thank FC Pune City and Villarreal CF for creating a competitive pathway for young talented players. Through ISL, we have already seen a lot of Spanish coaches and players come to India in the last three years.
For us at La Liga, it's heartening to see Indian players making a move to Spain as well. We hope that this inspires many more young talented Indian players to get opportunities in Spain."