Pozzos' connections open new doors for Watford

Experienced new Italian owners will tap scouting network to bring loan talent to Vicarage Road

When a new owner from overseas takes over an English club, the default optimism of the football fan tends to mean excitement just about outweighs trepidation. Yet the Italian takeover at Watford could be a real step into the unknown for English football.

The Pozzo family have arrived in Hertfordshire and we can be sure of one thing – they have a plan. Patriarch Giampaolo has owned Udinese for more than 25 years, and knows exactly how he wants to do things. Hence the abrupt sacking of manager Sean Dyche last week, despite last season's creditable mid-table finish.

While the new head coach, Gianfranco Zola, is the club's second Italian in charge after Gianluca Vialli, more of the lavish spending that took place under his former Chelsea team-mate 11 years ago – and left them in dire straits – is highly unlikely. In their first message directly to Watford supporters since taking over, the family said their "vision of how we should be involved in professional football is to provide financial and technical support, so that success can be achieved over the long term".

A clear structure is in place already, with former West Ham chief executive Scott Duxbury and sporting director Gianluca Nani on board, having persuaded the Pozzos to invest. Their involvement led to the recruitment of Zola, whom they are familiar with from their time at Upton Park.

The Pozzo recipe for success is well defined, and set more at the Moneyball than the Abu Dhabi end of the market. At their flagship, Udinese, the results are impressive. Last summer saw star trio Alexis Sanchez, Gökhan Inler and Cristian Zapata sold on for a combined £38m, yet the club went on to finish in Serie A's Champions League spots for the second successive year. A sophisticated international scouting network enables them to buy low and sell high.

Nani is on message, having an enviable record of his own overseeing effective scouting from his years at Brescia, where he signed talents as diverse as Luca Toni and Marek Hamsik. It remains to be seen if he can be as versatile an influence as the Pozzos' representative at Granada, Quique Pina, has been at their other overseas interest.

A former lower league player, 43-year-old Pina became an agent after retiring. After creating his own club, Ciudad de Murcia, in 1999 to showcase players and stimulate business, he sold up in 2007. Pina became Udinese's representative in the Spanish-speaking world, brokering a £400,000 deal for Chilean defender Mauricio Isla, whom the Pozzos sold to Juventus last week for an estimated £7.7m.

In 2009, after becoming friends with Giampaolo's son Gino (also an agent), Pina persuaded the Pozzos to invest in ailing third-tier Granada. The family subsequently installed him as president. A raft of young Udinese players were loaned to the Andalusian club, and successive promotions followed. Last season, Granada were in the top flight for the first time since 1976.

The Pozzo mission statement does say: "Maintaining Watford's identity is key to having long-term success." Yet the admission that the "club will be run along the tried and tested model of Udinese and Granada" is made. So we can probably count on only a semi-permanent cast of players.

When this correspondent visited Granada in January, 10 of the squad for the match against Rayo Vallecano were loan players, including seven from Udinese. The Pozzos and Pina have excellent relationships with several other clubs, including the Portuguese giants Benfica, who lent them three players last season. Further down the scale, the chain continues. Pina is also a major shareholder at third-tier Cadiz, and has appointed his father, Juan Jose, as president. Cadiz took nine Granada players on loan last term.

We can, then, expect movement in both directions from Watford. With promotion from the Championship the first priority, any potential conflicts of interest appear to be some way off at the moment. For now, supporters can look forward to a good augmentation of playing resources with very little capital risk on the club's part.

It seems an opportune moment for such an experiment. The consequences of the vote to accept the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) for developing young players last October threatens to change the financial landscape for Football League clubs. It is likely many more teams will end up topping up with loans than before. With a potential source of revenue in player sales looking likely to be curtailed, further budgetary rethinks will be required.

This situation is unlikely to have escaped the notice of the Pozzo family. They have snared a foothold in the English game with a business plan better than most. The future at Watford is unlikely to be dull.

 



I'm back to set the record straight – Zola

Gianfranco Zola admits he has a point to prove on his return to English football as Watford manager after a two-year exile.

The 1997 PFA Player of the Year has watched fellow Italians Roberto Mancini and Roberto Di Matteo win the Premier League and Champions League trophies respectively – in stark contrast to Zola's first stint in management, where his struggling West Ham reign was disrupted by criticism from co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan before his dismissal in 2010.

Following his appointment in the wake of the Pozzo takeover, Zola said: "It's a big credit to the Italian managers. Now I'm under pressure. Joining them in the Premier League is one of the targets. But our situation is different as this is a long-term project.

"If I didn't think I had anything to prove I wouldn't be here."

PA

Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
Voices
Sweet tweet: Victoria Beckham’s selfie, taken on her 40th birthday on Thursday
voices... and her career-long attack on the absurd criteria by which we define our 'betters', by Ellen E Jones
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport Hamilton captured his third straight Formula One race with ease on Sunday, leading from start to finish to win the Chinese Grand Prix

Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit