The transfer of Akram Afif was confirmed on Sunday by Qatari club Al Sadd, where former Barcelona midfielder Xavi plays.
Having a Qatari national appear in one of Europe’s strongest leagues is seen as a boon for the Gulf country that has spent millions of dollars developing young players as it prepares to host the 2022 World Cup.
‘I hope I can be one of the best players in La Liga for Villarreal … playing in the Champions League is an objective for me,’ Afif told Qatar’s World Cup organising body in an interview.
‘I also hope more Qatari players can play in Europe … to learn a lot of things for the World Cup. The World Cup is in our country and it is a big chance for Qatari players.’
Doha-born Afif had been on loan since 2015 to a Qatari-owned team in Belgium’s second division, Kas Eupen, where he scored six goals in 16 appearances.
He is a product of Qatar’s Aspire Academy, which has spent millions of dollars nurturing Qatari footballers as well as naturalised foreign talent.
One of only a handful of Qatari players to play in Europe, Akram made his debut for Qatar’s national team last year during a 15-0 win over Bhutan in a World Cup qualifier.