First things first; A big congratulation to all the Watford fans who, together with the players, secured promotion to Premier League by defeating Brighton 2-0 at Amex Stadium in Brighton. Troy Deeney allowed Watford to set its first foot in EPL after 29 minutes and Udinese “loanee”, Matej Vydra, set the other foot in the 94th minute.
In this short post I will try to give my opinion, as an Udinese fan, on what Premier League will probably look like for Watford under a regime controlled by Pozzo. Truth be told, it is actually Giampaolo Pozzo’s son, Gino Pozzo who is having a say on Watford, as he owns the club together with his father. As far as the daily operation of the club, this is controlled by Gino himself, including transfer exchange between the two clubs. In fact, let’s start with the transfer policy, which is the key behind Udinese’s success over the years.
Buying cheap and selling expensive is in all football clubs interest. Some clubs do this better than others, and in two ways; Some clubs prioritize their own youth system and develop players through their own academy. This can be quite a gamble, but can be very effective and has been adopted with great success in Netherland, Belgium and even in Scandinavia, where resources are limited. The other way is somewhat more expensive and depends on a vast scouting network. Udinese is among one of those clubs that exploit a massive scouting network to find players in area where bigger clubs are not heavily present. Countries like Chile, Colombia, small east-European countries, Ghana, Scandinavia are important areas for the scouting network. The vast network, with its scouts, is controlled by one man, Andrea Carnevale. He is the center of all the scouting activities and will, together with Cristiano Giaretta and others, evaluate the reports and videos of players sent in. The network covers also potential loan deals between the affiliated clubs, Granada and Watford, but also others are included (Koper, Avellino, Cadiz, etc.). Once a green light has been given to enter negotiations a financial assessment will be made. This assessment includes the initial negotiation on the player with the current clubs, but more importantly, a future transfer target on the players. This is important for older players (>22) and the more expensive ones. Gabriel Torje is one (good/bad) example of an older and more expensive player.
When Pozzo purchased Watford the intention was to secure promotion to Premier League. Udinese didn’t play any role in this deal as Watford would only benefit on scouting network that was already established. To further strengthen Watford, Udinese would send out players on loan, that would normally be sent on loan anyway and they did so without compromising their own goals in Serie A. The loan deals have been fewer and this season it was only Matej Vydra that was loaned out and that for a good reason, as he did well at Watford and not so well at Udinese. When a player is sold, a percentage of this fee will go directly in to the scouting network in order to maintain the organization and cover all the costs related to scouting. A transfer in Italy can be somewhat different from Premier League. Co-ownerships are made with “hidden” envelopes where clubs place their bid on the player when the co-ownership deal is ended. Antonio Candreva is one player Udinese had for a long time in a co-own deal before he was eventually sold. The usage of clauses and various installments are being used as well, which means there is not a big chunk of money coming in at one time. This allows a constant flux of money coming in over a period of time. Alexis Sanches is a good examples of clauses and installments being used in the transfer deal.
So how will this affect Watford? Clearly they will be less dependent on loan deals from Udinese, but I don’t expect them to go crazy on the transfer market. The system is robust and will not change with the fact Watford being in Premier League. Smart signings, shrewd housekeeping and a solid grip on the salaries will be important for Pozzo even at Watford. One key element in the system is Udinese’s former coach, Guidolin, who know is employed in a more international capacity at Udinese. I am not sure what his real job specification is, but I would assume he is to give some tactical advise to the scouting network on how to use possible new signings and more importantly, how to optimize loan deals among the affiliated clubs with respects to the qualities of the players compared to the tactical approach being used at the clubs.
With this I don’t mean the amount of goals Watford will score during a season. I simply mean what goal is set by the management for the club. At Udinese this has been the same for a decade; Prior to the season the goal is to reach 40 points as fast as possible. Future goals will be based on how fast the club will reach that goal. My opinion on this is two-fold; Firstly, I acknowledge that Udinese is a small club with limited resources and setting a goal equal to qualification to Champions League will be unrealistic and might even jeopardize the business model. Secondly, I would like the club to take a little more risk on the transfer market in order to attract players that can compete on international level. With this, as a consequence, salaries needs to be adjusted accordingly to attract those players.
When it comes to Watford it will be all about surviving Premier League. Even though a big bunch of money through TV revenues are provided, this is not what Watford should build the club around. Salaries must be according to the revenue the club can generate on marketing, sponsorships and contribution to transfers. I think Watford could end up being a similar club to Udinese in Premier League with solid economy and smart signings in an even more chaotic transfer market. I still think 40 points will apply for Watford as well for the upcoming season. Pozzo has stated he wants to win the scudetto with Udinese sometime. BUT in order to do so you can’t, prior to the season, set a goal to reach 40 points…..Does Pozzo want to win Premier League with Watford? Of course he does!
The last two seasons have been terrible for Udinese. It started with Guidolin ending on 13th place the previous season in a year where he was mentally “out” of the club. You could actually see him on the sideline thinking about what he will do after the season was finally over. This also affected the players’ performance. The management decided not to do anything and explained that they will search for new manager once the future had been settled with Guidolin. In my opinion that was already settled. Stramaccioni replaced Guidolin prior to this season and so far this has not paid off at all. The performance has been terrible, if not worse, and there are no indication the trend will turn.
For some reason Gino Pozzo has a different approach as managers have come and gone at Watford. My only concern with Watford is that if the club all of sudden is facing relegation, the management decide to do nothing drastic as far as the coaching staff and manager. Sometimes simple changes in the staff will results in immediate results. Among the clubs in Serie A, Udinese is one of them that does not do drastic changes in the organization when results are trending down. Hopefully there will be a different approach at Watford when they are in the Premier League
To me, the media focus heavily on calling a club either a feeder or a farmer, depending on the status. Pozzo doesn’t really work under that system. Granada, Udinese and Watford are affiliated clubs in a business model enforced by Pozzo. The status has little to do with how deals and money transaction will be made. The scouting network will exploit the market to the benefit of all clubs. The likelihood of Allan or Widmer to go to Watford is as likely for Troy Deeney to go the other way. The status of Premier League is higher than Serie A, no question asked. BUT, for Pozzo, who is a very patriotic and sentimental person, his hearth lies in Udine. It is not a question of Udinese going down the ranks, it will be more a question to Pozzo themselves if the business model will work for Watford in Premier League. If the fans of Watford will see this as a long term project where consistency will be the key to secure a healthy club in Premier League, there will be a lot of joy to come in the years to follow.