Jose Manuel Jurado is expected to return to training this week after a calf problem as the Atletico Madrid influence on this Watford team continues to grow.
Quique Sanchez Flores coached Atletico for two seasons, inherited Jurado, recommended the signing of Mario Suarez from Real Mallorca and then, in the same month in 2010, saw Jurado sold over his head to Schalke for £9.75m. All three former Rojiblancos are now reunited at Watford, of all places. Jurado and Suarez only played 18 minutes together at Atletico but their liaison stretches back further than their days at Vincente Calderon.
“We played together in Mallorca,” said Suarez. “Technically he is amazing. Quique knows him very good and knows how to get the best from Jurado. I think he plays very good when he plays in the middle of the midfield and forward. He is amazing because he can pass, score and assist. It’s good he is playing well.”
Jurado, 29, hit a high in a Watford shirt against Chelsea and ran the show for a magical half-hour period but he failed to back it up against Tottenham Hotspur, although he was not alone in that. He missed the game against Crystal Palace through injury and Watford ground out a crucial three points. Watford have a win percentage of 35 per cent when the Spaniard is in the team and 55 per cent when he’s been out, although the sample size when he’s missed games (nine) is much smaller than when he’s played (20).
“Jurado is important when we want to keep the ball,” said Sanchez Flores in the build up to the Chelsea game. “He is very technical with the ball, he’s very clever. Abdi is like this. He’s always making good decisions with the ball. They are really clever in the last third.”
Jurado has, according to one website, an 83.7 per cent passing success rate this season and has two assists. He is yet to open his account as a Watford player but he’s never been a prolific scorer in a career that started at Real Madrid. The playmaker still has his detractors among the Vicarage Road faithful, with some voicing on social media their unhappiness with his contribution defensively when he plays as a makeshift winger. Pep Guardiola once wrote in a column in El Pais that France’s greatest ever playmaker also doubled up as their best defender.
“Zidane asks for the ball, he passes it, he asks for it again, he has it, he passes it again,” wrote the greatest coach of his generation. “And meanwhile, the French team organises itself. I repeat: he is France’s best defender.”
Watford forfeited leads at Everton and at home to Manchester City after Jurado went off and were drawing at home to Spurs when he was sacrificed. Conversely, the team turned a likely replay against Nottingham Forest into a passage into the fifth round after he came off the bench at the City Ground.