Queens Park Rangers v Watford - Pre Season Friendly

‘It’s a good sign Watford want to keep players like Ighalo and Deeney’

Walter Mazzarri is pleased Odion Ighalo has extended his stay at the club and now wants to add him to the list of strikers he has coached to career-best heights.

Ighalo, 27, signed his third long-term contract in less than two years this week, penning a new five-year deal on significantly improved terms that put him closer to Troy Deeney, who is the team’s top earner.

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“I am very happy – the same goes for Deeney,” said Mazzarri this morning. “It shows the player did well and that the club wants players who did well to stay. This is a very good sign.”

Ighalo still had four years to run on his previously heavily performance-related deal so the new contract is likely to be a reward for turning down the offer of a big money move to China for the second successive summer. He scored 13 league goals by December 28 but only found the net twice in 18 league games in 2016. It provides Mazzarri with an obvious area to improve, something he has a track record of doing.

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Cristiano Lucarelli finished as Serie A’s top scorer with unfashionable Livorno, Rolando Biachi and Nicola Amoruso scored 35 goals between them for Mazzarri at Reggina, while Giampaolo Pazzini reached double figures for the first time in his career at Sampdoria. Edinson Cavani is Mazzarri’s biggest success story, scoring 26, 23 and 29 goals in three successive seasons under Mazzarri at Napoli, earning him a £55m move to Paris St-Germain.

“I hope [Deeney and Ighalo can do the same],” said Mazzarri. “All those players beat their record under my management. I hope for Deeney and Ighalo to do the same and keep improving.”