The arrival of an experienced striker at Vicarage Road next month will not see Obbi Oulare sent out on loan.
Quique Sanchez Flores has made no secret of his wish to increase his firepower with the addition of a proven goalscorer in the window and a shortlist, headed by the name of the Emmanuel Adebayor, has already been drawn up. That would put Oulare, who is yet to make a first-team appearance, further down the pecking order – yet he cannot be farmed out to gain experience in English football.
Fifa’s transfer regulations states a player cannot play for more than two clubs in the same season. Oulare, 19, made seven appearances for Club Brugge this season – and two for Watford’s Under-21 side in the Professional Development League, matches ruled by Fifa as official matches.
That will leave Oulare, who was signed for a fee north of £4.5m, facing the prospect of spending the remainder of the season training, playing the odd game for the Under-21s and, at best, pushing for a spot on Watford’s bench. The Belgian, however, is known to be happy with his career progression, trusts the judgement of Sanchez Flores implicitly and feels Watford, working alongside Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo, is the best place for his development.
“We are always speaking to Oulare because he is a project,” said Sanchez Flores who communicates well with those on the periphery of the team. “We have different groups of players in our squad. One group of players have been ready to play for the first team since the start of the season. The other group contains players who are projects. Watford is the kind of club which needs to invest in younger talents who can improve and help the squad in the future.”
“That is the case for Oulare and, to a lesser extent, Steven Berghuis. Oulare is 19 but he is calm. We have confidence in the potential he has. He is training well and is a better player than three months ago when he arrived. He understands at this moment he is learning. In the future he will be ready.”
As we reported the day he arrived, Oulare was not signed for the here and now. The fact the coaching staff have been afforded the time to develop one of the most expensive signings in the club’s history, without any pressure from fans to see a big-money signing play, speaks volumes for the form of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo and the healthy financial state of the club. Remember, for example, the questions being asked when Nathan Ellington, who was signed for a similar fee, was in and out of the side.
The club had been tracking Oulare for a while, along with many others, but shelved their interest for the meantime when they were informed he was going to remain in Belgium for another season. But when Oulare unexpectedly became available at the end of the summer window, after Club Brugge signed two strikers and did not qualify for the Champions League, Watford decided to take a calculated punt, wanting to avoid seeing him go elsewhere and develop into an eight-figure player. They feel he has attributes required of a modern-day centre forward. QPR, we are told, thought they were in the box seat to sign him when Les Ferdinand, their sporting director, watched the Belgium youth international in action at Old Trafford in the Champions League qualifier.
Adlène Guedioura spent two years in Belgium, playing for KV Kortrijk and then Charleroi, and says Oulare, despite losing his place in the national U21 side due to his lack of club football, is still the talk of Belgian football.
“I used to play in Belgium and my friends there said how good he is, he is rated a lot in Belgium,” said Guedioura who, like Oulare, has found opportunities under Sanchez Flores hard to come by. “I’ve tried to take him under my wing because he is a good player who will improve. He is the future of Watford. He is only young so if I can help him then I will. He deserves to shine and I believe he will shine in the future.”