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“I hope Odion Ighalo finishes the season with Watford”

Odion Ighalo will be a Watford player for the rest of the season. His future beyond that is the subject of doubt after Quique Sanchez Flores, not one to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, said for the third time in a fortnight he is not sure the club can hang onto him beyond the summer.

Ighalo’s soaring value in the transfer market would have gone through the roof yesterday when he scored twice in front of a packed Vicarage Road crowd and, more tellingly, live on Sky Sports. He has 12 for the season and 28 in the calendar year, demonstrating, yet again, this is more than a purple patch.

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Picture (plus main) by Paul Dawson

Players of his age profile (he doesn’t turn 27 until June) with his goalscoring knack are in high demand and command a significant transfer fee, one that would blow out of the water the club record fee of £9.65m Watford received for Ashley Young in 2007.

Sanchez Flores said last week that Ighalo “will wait until end of this season to take decisions” while the player, when speaking after the win over Norwich City, said: “We’ll see what happens in January or in the summer.”

The head coach was asked again yesterday about the long-term prospects of the Nigerian who was watched by his agent, Ladi Salami.

Odion Ighalo is embraced by his agent yesterday
Odion Ighalo is embraced by his agent yesterday. Picture by Paul Dawson

“He is completely clever,” said Sanchez Flores. “He chose five months ago the option to stay here with Watford. When he chose to stay it is because he imagined something special here. He knows the best option for him. I hope he finishes the season with Watford. After that anybody knows.”

The Pozzos’ player-trading model is based on selling players they picked up on the cheap for an optimum price, ideally to a team in another country, like they did with Alexis Sanchez to Barcelona. If not, then to one of the elite clubs in the league, as was the case when they sanctioned the sale of Vincenzo Iaquinta from Udinese to Juventus for £7.95m.

It would now take an offer of at least double the one of £10m the club accepted from Hebei China Fortune in the summer for Watford to even consider selling the Nigerian at the end of this season. He has more than four years left on his contract, for starters, and the guaranteed income of £180m from TV revenues puts chief executive Scott Duxbury in a position of strength at the negotiating table. Indeed the club are operating so far-sighted these days and their scouting network is so vast that the recruitment committee probably already have a fair idea which gem they would unearth to replace Ighalo with.