Watford have recovered from the shock of Miguel Layun pushing for an unforeseen loan move to Porto and can see the benefit of seeing one of their contracted players shining in the Champions League.
Quique Sanchez Flores admitted to being taken by surprise when Layun told him on the eve of the summer transfer window closing that he wished to move to Portugal and take up the interest in him from Julen Lopetegui, the manager at Estadio do Dragao.
The desire, we understand, to swap the Premier League for the Primeira Liga was largely motivated by his desire to retain his place in his national team. Despite a goalscoring start at Everton on the opening day, Layun became concerned when he was subbed after 55 minutes against West Bromwich Albion, did not make the squad against Southampton and was then pitched in the makeshift team fielded against Preston, an XI that largely consisted of those players not part of the head coach’s plans.
By the time Layun was named on the bench against Manchester City, coming on for the last 18 minutes, his mind was, we are told, already made up and his heart was set on Porto. A proud countryman and idolised in Mexico, Layun did not want to jeopardise his participation in the forthcoming World Cup qualifying campaign by sitting on Watford’s congested bench.
Layun’s move has been vindicated by the fact that he is yet to be substituted in a Porto game and only been a substitute once, against Chelsea in the 2-1 win in the Champions League. He scored his first goal for the Dragões on Wednesday night, finding the target against a Maccabi Tel Aviv side managed by Slavisa Jokanovic.
“I love Layun,” said Sanchez Flores yesterday. “I think he’s a very good person, a very good player.”
Instead of worrying about the one that got away and the difference he could have made to this Watford team, the key decision makers will be delighted at how his performances on the European stage will be increasing his market value. Layun is contracted at Vicarage Road until 2019 and we understand the season-long loan deal with Porto does not contain an option-to-buy clause.
“The most important thing to know is that Layun belongs to Watford,” said Sanchez Flores. “This is really good news.”
Asked if he could see Layun returning in the summer and resuming his stop-start Watford career, the head coach said: “Next season is very, very far.”
Used in a more defensive role by Porto, Layun ventured upfield to score the third in the 3-1 midweek win that leaves them on the brink of qualifying for the last 16 of Europe’s premier knockout competition.
“It fills me with joy to have made the first goal with this shirt and now I want to keep the level, leave everything on the field and hope that things are getting better,” Layun told the media after the game. “We knew it was a very tough game. Maccabi played very well, created some chances to score and we tried to take advantage of ours. We wanted to win the three points, make a good game and we approach the objective, which is qualifying for the next phase. But this does not change anything, we want to continue to win and thus respect the history that this great club has.”
Layun said his integration into the Porto dressing room has been helped by the presence of his countrymen Hector Herrera, Jesus Corona and Raul Gudino.
“It helped me a lot to have Mexican players,” he said. “And when the coach tells you as clearly and specifically what they want of you and you have mates of this quality, it’s even easier.”