Watford will tomorrow come up against Emmanuel Adebayor, the player they thought so long and hard about signing in December and who they again entertained the idea of recruiting when their form dipped alarmingly in January.
Prior to the 2-0 home win over Norwich City, Watford were on the verge of signing the former Tottenham Hotspur striker as a free agent. Quique Sanchez Flores and Scott Duxbury had met the player separately and they were not only confident the Togo forward had the desire to resurrect his career at Vicarage Road, but that they had struck a sensible financial deal with Spurs to pay around a third of his £110,000 a week wages until the end of the season.
Successive wins over Norwich, Sunderland and Liverpool moved Watford up to the heady heights of seventh and just one point off the Champions League places. Signing a back-up striker who could chip in with a few goals to help keep the club in the division was no longer the priority. Watford recalibrated their transfer targets and started looking at players with next season in mind.
They pulled out of the deal for Adebayor and shifted their attention instead to Nordin Amrabat and Andros Townsend. However, the four-game winless streak in the Premier League prompted a rethink and another change of heart. Senior decision makers at the club seriously contemplated reviving their interest in the player, especially with goals at a premium and Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo looking jaded, but Sanchez Flores felt the impending arrival of Amrabat was sufficient cover and competition. Adebayor signed for Palace instead but not before, we are told, a last-minute call to Watford to see if they had changed their mind.
It therefore blindsided several influencers at the club when Sanchez Flores, having played a straight bat to questions about Adebayor for the previous two months, said it was Adebayor’s decision to turn down Watford – not the other way round.
“I’m not disappointed – the player decided where he wanted to go,” said the head coach a fortnight ago. “We have the talent in our squad to play with him, but he didn’t find enough reasons to come here, so we can’t do anything about it now.”
Sanchez Flores publicly softened his stance yesterday. “He is a very good player. You never know when you are in conversation how close or how far [you are to signing him]. I’m not frustrated, no.”
Adebayor will start against Watford on Saturday at Selhurst Park, according to Alan Pardew.
“Every day on the training ground is going to be an improvement for him,” the Palace manager said in his pre-match press conference yesterday. “He’s settled in really, really well and we’re looking forward to him starting on Saturday. He will definitely start.”
Depending on whether Miguel Britos recovers from the kick he sustained at Spurs, Sebastian Prodl could be tasked with marking Adebayor tomorrow.
“He is an outstanding name but the whole offensive is very good,” said the Austrian. “We have to be careful.”