Nordin Amrabat has revealed he turned down a move to West Bromwich Albion 18 months ago and that he favours playing on the wing but will happily play as a striker for Quique Sanchez Flores.
Amrabat has trained three times this week since signing for a club record fee of £6.1m from Malaga and if his confident, energetic and entertaining meeting with the local press this afternoon was anything to go by, Watford have a real fans’ favourite on their hands. They also have a man who keeps a promise. He confirmed he had the chance to join the Baggies in the summer of 2014 but he had a gentleman’s agreement with Malaga to turn his loan spell into a permanent one.
“The summer of 2014 they wanted to take me on loan from Galatasaray but I’d already given my word to Malaga that I’d go back there,” Amrabat said. “I had been there four months before going back to Galatasaray. I told Malaga that summer either I stay here with Galatasaray or I will come back to you. I am a person who doesn’t break their word. So when they have been waiting for me it isn’t nice to suddenly change and go somewhere else. They had the chance to sign other players but they waited for me. If they’d waited for me until the last week and then I said no then they don’t have a player for that position. So if I say something I will try and keep my word.”
The goodwill was reciprocated by Malaga last week when Watford triggered the buy-out clause in his contract.
“They wanted to pay my release clause and that was enough for me,” Amrabat said. “They showed interest, made their offer and I told Malaga I wanted to go. They didn’t want me to leave and said they could make a deal with Watford now and I would go in the summer. I told the owner [Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani], ‘No I want to go directly’. Watford paid my clause and he couldn’t do anything. That’s how it happened.”
Amrabat, 28, sought the advice of fellow Holland-born and PSV youth graduate Ibrahim Afellay before putting pen to paper on a three-and-half-year deal at Vicarage Road. He is living in a hotel but will fly back to Spain on Sunday to collect his wife and nine-month-old son and then begin the search of finding a permanent home in Hertfordshire.
Where Sanchez Flores plans to house Amrabat in the Watford team will be fascinating. Malaga fans are used to seeing him play out wide but Watford’s head coach has designs on him as a No.9 or No.10.
“Wherever he needs me I’ll play,” Amrabat said. “If the manager puts me as a winger great. If he puts me as a striker I’ll play as a striker. I started in Malaga as a striker. The coach wasn’t happy with the striker and tried me there. He was happy with how I played. So last year I played as a striker and this year I’ve played more as a winger. In the big games, against Barcelona and Real Madrid, I’ve played as a striker to keep the ball and create something.”
If Sanchez Flores told him he could pick one position to play in what would it be?
“I prefer the wing, normally I’m a winger but if he needs me as a striker, as a No 10 or even as a defender, no problem,” said Amrabat. “I am a player who does not think about himself, I think about the team. I prefer left [wing] but I can play in the right. But I play where the coach tells me to, where he needs me to play.”
Amrabat has been named in the matchday squad against Newcastle at the expense of Obbi Oulare. It seems unlikely he will start and it is more probable he will charge off the bench in the second half, but we all know how foolhardy it is to try and second guess Watford’s head coach.
“He is ready and is fit,” said Sanchez Flores. “Amrabat is a top player who has come from a top league. His level is very high so we have to put him in the squad as quickly as possible. The priority was to cover the strikers because goals are the most important thing in football. We have three strikers who are all at a good level. We are safe now because we’ve covered the strikers.”