The ‘Odion Ighalo £12m transfer’ rumour has surfaced again today, much to the amusement and bafflement of senior figures at the club.
For a start, the silly season doesn’t officially begin until July 1. Secondly, the club are on good terms with Ladi Salami, Ighalo’s agent who was a regular at the training ground in the summer. It’s unlikely he’s going to be feeding the media information to engineer a move for his happy and settled client, particularly not at a valuation of £12m which would do his commission no good and is considerably below his market value and his worth to this Watford side.
Perhaps the impending summer arrival of 20-year-old Nigeria forward Isaac Success has got the conspiracy theorists at it. But one thing for sure is that Ighalo will not be going anywhere for £12m. One high-ranking club source said to us in December, when the figure was first bandied about: “Are they buying just his arm?”
Here’s several reasons why we feel the chances of Ighalo starting next season in a Watford shirt are high:
The length of his contract
Ighalo will, in the summer, have four years left on the sweet deal he signed earlier this season. Watford therefore hold all the contractual aces and are a long, long way off worrying about the player running his contract down and leaving for free. He’s Watford’s player until 2020. The bottom line is if Watford don’t want to sell Ighalo then Ighalo stays and adheres to the terms of his contract. Plus, we understand his contract, like most signed at Vicarage Road these days, is heavily incentivised so even if he was to down tools, and from everything we hear he isn’t that sort, he would be missing out on significant goal and assist bonus money.
No pressure to sell
We are told the asking price for Ighalo would start at £40m. Is he worth that? Probably not but the English market became distorted long before Ighalo became a Premier League player. His goals are worth their weight in gold for Watford. Say Watford sold Ighalo this summer for £40m and, heaven forbid, were relegated after struggling to replace his goals. Forty million quid sitting in the Championship bank account is no consolation when you’ve just kissed goodbye to another season of TV revenue worth £100m and counting, is it? Plus, are there too many clubs around willing to match Watford’s asking price for a player who has had one outstanding Premier League season?
Finding a replacement
What is the going rate to sign a striker who can get you 14 goals in the top flight of English football before the end of January? The answer? What ever Ighalo is worth on the open market. If Watford were going to simply spend the proceeds from the sale of Ighalo on one replacement then they might as well keep the prolific striker they’ve got. Should they decide to, say, buy two strikers at £15m to replace him, there is no guarantee they will hit the ground running, make that all-important adaptation, and suit the style of play and formation Sanchez Flores has got going on. Yes, the Pozzos’ model at Udinese and Granada is based on player trading but teams in Italy and Spain do not get a slice of an eye-watering TV deal like teams do in the Premier League. TV revenue will prop up Watford’s balance sheet – not player trading.
Ighalo has football ambitions that go beyond the size of his pay cheque, as he showed by turning down a £200,000 a week summer move to China. You suspect he’s got designs on, one day, playing for one of the Premier League’s big boys. But if you take them one by one, is he a logical fit for any of them? We think you can rule out Manchester City as armed with the money of Sheikh Mansour and the pulling power of Pep Guardiola, they can sign who they want. Ighalo won’t even be on their radar. Manchester United? Ighalo was a fan growing up but can you really see Ighalo spearheading United’s strikeforce and leading their revival?
Arsenal play one up top and even Theo Walcott is struggling to get a look in ahead of Olivier Giroud in that sought-after role. Tottenham also play a lone striker and Harry Kane has that position sewn up. With a new stadium to pay for and a penchant for bringing through or signing English players, it is hard to see Daniel Levy crowbarring open the White Hart Lane safe to spend £40m on a back-up striker. Chelsea is a viable option but Diego Costa has rediscovered his form and is leading the line with controlled aggression and is banging the goals in again.
A return to Spain could be explored but Atletico Madrid have had their fingers burnt by spending £26.25m on a striker, Jackson Martinez, in the summer. They shipped him off, for a whopping profit, to Guangzhou Evergrande earlier this month. Atletico’s club record signing is Radamel Falcao at £30m. Would they smash that to land Ighalo? Real Madrid and Barcelona don’t tend to recruit their strikers from Watford, either
Plenty can happen between now and the first game of next season regarding the future of Ighalo but let’s get this potentially historic one out of the way first.