Jon Miquel Toral Harper – to give him his full name – was born in Reus, in the Province of Tarragona, Catalonia.
He has an English mother and has been to able speak English fluently from an early age. He began playing football as a child with his local club, UE Barri Santes Creus, before signing for Barcelona in 2003, after being discovered by youth football coordinator Albert Puig.
He quickly impressed at youth level for the Catalan giants and was part of the Barcelona Under-15 side that won the 2009/10 Manchester United Premier Cup. It was at this tournament that his performances caught the eye of Arsenal’s scouts, prompting the Gunners to sign both him and Hector Bellerin at the age of 16 for £300,000 – a fee described by then Camp Nou president Sandro Rossell as ‘a little immoral’.
Toral and Bellerin were the fresh blood for a club that had undergone wide-ranging changes. Both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri had departed, and in came a plethora of starlets for Arsenal’s academy. The two best talents of which were Toral and Bellerin.
After recovering from a meniscus injury his right knee, suffered in his final appearance in a Barcelona shirt in May 2011, Toral made his debut for the reserves in a 2-0 Premier Reserve League defeat to Aston Villa in November 2011.
He appeared for Arsenal in the 2012/13 NextGen Series and the 2013/14 UEFA Youth League, scoring two goals in five appearances in the latter competition, also breaking into the Gunners’ second string side that season, scoring six goals in 20 appearances.
Toral was called into the Arsenal first team squad for pre-season friendly matches against Boreham Wood and New York Red Bulls in July 2014, making a start and a substitute appearance respectively.
He gained his first taste of competitive football in England during a loan spell with Brentford in 2014/15 – where he impressed in the Championship at the newly-promoted side, scoring six times in 36 appearances of which only eight were starts.
The following season, the young Spaniard moved to Birmingham City – again on a season-long loan. He made an instant impact at St Andrew’s, scoring twice in his first two games, and quickly established himself as a first-team regular.
He went on score eight goals in 38 games in all competitions and cleaned up at the Blues’ end-of-season awards night as he was named Supporters’ Player of the Season and Players’ Player of the Season, along with winning the Goal of the Season award for an exceptional volley against Ipswich Town.
Last summer he made his third loan move – this time back to his homeland with Granada. However, he was limited to just six appearances and one goal for the La Liga outfit in the first half of the 2016/17 campaign which led to him being recalled by Arsenal in January 2017.
However, he wasn’t back at the Emirates for long though, as just two days later he joined Rangers on loan until the end of the season, going on to score three goals in 15 appearances as he helped the Ibrox outfit finish third behind Aberdeen and champions Celtic in the SPL table.
A skilful player and exceptional dribbler, Toral is a box-to-box midfielder who possesses an engine that allows him to just keep on going and going. His versatility allows him to play anywhere across the midfield but is perhaps at his best when operating in the No.10 role.
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