Watford are known for their judicious dealings in the foreign transfer market but they pulled off a real coup in the English market in January.
We can reveal the Hornets signed Costel Pantilimon on a free last month, a deal that must rank among the shrewdest of the Pozzo era given the respected Transfermarkt website have the Romanian international’s market value as £4.5m. Pantilimon, a Premier League winner and with Champions League experience, is set to start his second game in a Watford shirt, against Leeds United in the FA Cup on Saturday.
The official announcement had the fee as undisclosed but we are told the Hornets snapped him up for nothing, despite the fact he had two-and-a-half years left on his contract at Sunderland. Pantilimon signed a three-and-a-half year deal at Vicarage Road.
The hasty nature of his exit from the Stadium of Light suggests there was a fall out between him and the manager, Sam Allardyce. Pantilimon played in the 3-1 defeat at Chelsea on December 19 but did not feature thereafter, not even on the bench.
“It is a strange situation,” Pantilimon said. “I don’t really know what happened in the last three weeks. I had a discussion with the manager but I didn’t feel that reflected the reality. It is his call though. I don’t want to discuss it too much because I have a lot of things to say that maybe I shouldn’t. So I’ll leave it like this.
“I think I did a good job there and I still have a good relationship with people at the club and my teammates. But I chose to come to Watford and I think that was the best deal for my future.”
As we first reported last month, Pantilimon was heading for Monaco until he met Watford’s chief executive Scott Duxbury on the Sunday before the game at Swansea City.
“You said [I almost joined Monaco] – I didn’t say that,” Pantilimon said. “I have to think what I want and for me the best was to stay in the Premier League. I love so much is what is happening here. The Premier League is the best league in the world and I like it here a lot. It is my fifth year in England and I think it’s the best option for me to continue my career.
“Watford are a new club in the Premier League but they are building and want to be in the Premier League for a long time in the future. That is exactly the reason I choose Watford.”