Watford will not entertain any bids for Odion Ighalo in January even though the Pozzos have a history of selling unheralded players they have unearthed for an optimum price.
The club are expecting bids for their ten-goal striker next month but none that come close to their valuation of the player or any that would compensate for the loss of next season’s estimated £100m TV revenue should Ighalo be sold and Watford, as a result, take the most unlikely and dramatic nosedive back to the Championship.
“Ighalo would get in Man United’s team at the moment,” said Paul Merson on Soccer Saturday. “He is a threat, he goes beyond. I bet the Norwich players came off the field last weekend thinking they hadn’t played against anyone better this season. He has got to look at top six if he was going to move. He fits [Crystal] Palace’s bill.”
Matt Le Tissier was the subject of interest from Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur during his playing career but he remained a one-club man and stayed at Southampton.
“I think there will be interest in Ighalo as a transfer target, when you are scoring that many goals, and are a massive handful,” he said on Soccer Saturday. “He is really consistent, and he had several chances last week and you could see how frustrated he was at not getting one until late. As a centre forward he has got everything, he has got pace, he has got desire and he’s got goals in him.”
The Pozzos have a serious track record of discovering unpolished gems and selling them when the right offer comes in. Udinese signed Alexis Sanchez, Gokhan Inler, Cristian Zapata, Mauricio Isla, Mehidi Benatia and Luis Muriel for a combined £4.32m and sold them for a total profit of £68.5m.
The landscape is different in England as the Premier League TV revenue dwarfs the money generated in Serie A, so there is not the same pressure to sell, as Everton demonstrated so refreshingly with John Stones in the summer.
Yet a £10m offer from Hebei China Fortune for Ighalo was accepted in the summer and the striker would have been sold had he accepted personal terms, we are told, worth £200,000 a week. The club felt, with some justification at the time, that was a lot of money to turn down for a player who had enjoyed a rich six-month spell and that there was plenty of time and resources to land a replacement. Nobody could have forseen what a sensation he would be in the Premier League.
“It was a difficult decision at that time,” said Ighalo after the win over Norwich City. “And I thank god for giving me grace to turn down an offer like that. I’m going to have a good season and I could get close to that kind of money [one day].”
Ighalo signed a new five-year contract on improved terms in September but, as was demonstrated with Matej Vydra and Gabriele Angella, they count for very little in a discussion about a player’s immediate future at the club. Ighalo did, rather strangely, leave the door ajar when he spoke to the press after the last home win, against the Canaries.
“I have a five-year contract and I want to keep going well and see what happens in January or in the summer,” he said.
The cosmopolitan nature of Watford’s squad means exact detail and true meaning can often be lost in translation but Quique Sanchez Flores hardly cleared things up when, on Thursday in response to questions about bids for Deeney and Ighalo, he said: “Everything is possible and we have to be ready for everything. Ighalo is very happy here, he’s very clever. For sure he will wait until end of this season to take decisions. Deeney is completely passionate for this club, he is one of the main players, the spirit of the dressing room and [in terms of the] connection with the fans. I’m sure Deeney will stay here for a long [time].”
The Pozzos’ most high-profile buy low, sell high transfers at Udinese.
*figures according to www.transfermarkt.co.uk
Signed from Cali for £350,000
Sold to Roma for £6.3m
Signed from CDUC for £368,000
Sold to Juventus for £9.8m
Signed from Clermont for £840,000
Sold to Roma for £9.45m
Signed from Cali for £1.05m
Sold to Sampdoria for £7.35m