Walter Mazzarri will make the final call on whether Adalberto Penaranda, the much-talked about forward, will be part of Watford’s Premier League squad for this season.
The Hornets believed, with some justification, that they pulled off a coup by signing the Venezuelan sensation from Granada in January, tying him to a four-and-a-half year deal and allowing him to continue his development in La Liga for the second half of the season. Real Madrid and Barcelona are now reportedly expressing an interest in a player who is contracted to Watford until 2021 and who is very much part of the club’s long-term plans.
The 19-year-old has been given an extended break, after a first season of senior football ended with a run to the quarter-finals of the Copa America with his country. Buoyed by Isaac Success being granted a work permit, key decision makers at Vicarage Road are confident a panel at a hearing in London next month will allow Penaranda to work in the UK. In the meantime, Mazzarri will spend the next fortnight evaluating his attacking options and deciding if he has enough creativity and firepower in Troy Deeney, Odion Ighalo, Isaac Success, Jerome Sinclair, Nordin Amrabat, Steven Berghuis and Matej Vydra.
The smart money, at this stage, is on Penaranda being loaned to a club outside of the Premier League to continue his development. A clause about him playing a certain number of games is certain to be inserted in any season-long loan deal. Penaranda is highly thought of at Vicarage Road but the recruitment team accept the unforgiving world of the Premier League requires a certain level of maturity and experience to succeed. The club are desperately keen to avoid a repeat of the situation that saw Berghuis and Obbi Oulare lose their way and value after being marginalised last season. Neither started a Premier League game under Quique Sanchez Flores.
Yet the final say will be Mazzarri’s, a sign, together with the three-year contract he negotiated, of the power the Italian has been afforded at Vicarage Road. Described, in a good way, as “very intense and tactical” individual by one source, the former Sampdoria, Napoli and Inter Milan coach will use games against Woking, Stevenage and Queens Park Rangers to decide if he needs the youthful, unpredictable brilliance of Penaranda to supplement his attacking options. There will be no shortage of takers should Penaranda be sent out on loan, with the Hornets likely to net a sizeable loan fee to offset the €8m transfer layout.
Click HERE to read how Penaranda fared when lining up against the eventual Champions League winners last season.