Fran Montavez left Watford in acrimony at the end of last year after believing the club performed a U-turn on their contractual agreement and left him without pay for three months.
The former Real Madrid youth team midfielder was handed a contract at Vicarage Road until the end of the season after he impressed, as a trialist, in Professional Development League Under-21 matches, against Crystal Palace and Bristol City.
We were told, by academy manager Chris McGuane, the club were waiting for the Spanish Football Association to issue an International Transfer Certificate before they could field the midfielder for the first time since the beginning of September.
However, that does not appear to have been the case. Fifa rules, concerning the status and transfer of players, state that should a club ‘not receive an International Registration Transfer Certificate, or a reply stating a reason why this is not being issued within 30 days of the FA’s request, then a provisional clearance can be issued.’
Montavez was signed around September 23. He was still not playing for Watford again at any level by the time the U21s played Queens Park Rangers, 33 days later on October 23.
The club discovered, after they offered him a contract, that his status as an amateur free agent (he had not signed a professional contract at the Bernabeu) meant he could not be signed outside out of the transfer window. Free agents can be signed by a professional club if they have been released by their previous club before the end of the transfer window, as was the case with Luke Simpson, the 21-year-old goalkeeper who signed a short-term deal earlier this month. Emmanuel Adebayor, for example, was released by Spurs after the summer window closed and is not able to play for anyone else until the window re-opens.
Watford could have waited until January to register Montavez but, to the huge disappointment of the player, the sporting director Luke Dowling told him a couple of days after the U21 Professional Development League 2 South home win over Colchester United on November 16 that the club, on reflection, would not be willing to wait another six weeks to register him once the window reopened.
The diminutive midfielder, we are told, was admired by Harry Kewell and Quique Sanchez Flores and was under the impression he was going to be played in the behind-closed-doors friendly with Fulham in November. He claims he left Vicarage Road without receiving a penny of the £900 per month contract he signed. The club declined to comment.
A spokesperson at the FA said: “We don’t comment on individual cases in situations like this.”
Montavez had a trial at Brighton and is now playing back in his homeland with UD Sanse in the fourth tier of Spanish football. He scored in a 4-1 win over Atletico Pinto on Saturday.