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Watford, Granada and Udinese | El Centrocampista
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El Centrocampista

Udinese, Granada CF and now Watford FC – Brothers in football.

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A few short weeks ago, the news broke that the Pozzo family was looking to buy English Championship side Watford FC.

With fans in England seeking more information about the Pozzo family and their past exploits, I was asked to write an article for The Watford Observer, describing the influence of the Pozzo family at Granada CF.

There is absolutely no doubt that since the arrival of the Pozzo family at Granada CF, a club that were at the very brink of closure in the summer of 2009, the club has gone from strength to strength.

Fans at Granada CF have enjoyed consecutive promotions from Segunda B4, to Liga Adelante, to Liga BBVA. Last season the club survived in the top-flight and with continued support and investment from the Italians, the 2012/2013 season plans are for much more than just survival.

So far, Granada CF have been the most active club in the summer transfer window. Shrewd and quality signings add further strength to the squad, with more new arrivals expected before the end of August.

Meanwhile in Italy at Udinese, the mutual “parent” of Granada CF and Watford FC, the club has enjoyed a remarkable few years. Qualification for the Champions League in the last two seasons has seen Udinese begin to firmly establish themselves amongst the major teams in Italian football.

Undoubtedly, a key aspect to their success has been their superb global scouting network, plus their keen eye for signing players with great potential ability and value. A number of these players have become superb investments, most notable of which was Alexis Sánchez, who moved to Barcelona at the start of the 2011/2012 season for a whopping €37 million.

With Granada CF having already benefited greatly from the shrewd management and support of the Pozzo family and their investors, the acquisition of Watford FC will be an interesting “project” to follow in English football. The Pozzo family have been looking for some time for a foothold in English football and whilst there are different challenges ahead, compared to those in Spanish and Italian football, all eyes will now be on Watford FC and how they grow over the next few years.

To get a perspective on the new ownership at Watford FC and changes already taking place, we asked Frank Smith of The Watford Observer, to give us his insight into how the Pozzo family takeover is being received.

Normally football club takeovers by multi-millionaires are met with mad hysteria from supporters but the Pozzos’ acquisition of Watford has raised a few concerns from the outset.

The majority of Watford fans have welcomed the club’s new owners and talk of promotion to the Premier League has created excitement. But Watford supporters do like their club to behave in a certain way and have a few long-standing principles which the fans hope will not be lost as a result of the takeover.

Watford are a club who are renowned for their links with the community and for developing local youngsters.

The Pozzo’s business plan of recruiting young players and then selling them on for profit is one which Hornets supporters are used to as the Hertfordshire club have been doing it for decades. However, if Watford were to flood the first team with foreign imports, similar to Granada, then it would upset the majority of supporters.

The Pozzos have only been in charge for a couple of weeks so it is a hypothetical scenario at present and it is worth noting the new regime have stressed they respect the club’s links with the community and they plan to continue to develop their own players.

Watford have relied on loan players in the past but it is with moderation. Two or three loan players from Udinese or Granada would be welcomed but the Hornets already have more than 30 professionals on their books and supporters want to see ‘their own’ youngsters played.

The Pozzos upset Watford supporters immediately when it became obvious the club were going to sack previous manager Sean Dyche, despite the former centre back guiding the club to their highest league position in four years.

Dyche was a popular figure among supporters but time has indeed been a healer and fans are now looking forward to the new regime, which will be led by former Chelsea and Italy forward Gianfranco Zola.

Supporters will hope Dyche’s legacy will live on though; as he created a strong togetherness among the squad and a work ethic which was the envy of the rest of the Championship.

Morale among the Watford players was exceptional and the fact the whole squad, except for one, was from the United Kingdom and Ireland was a big factor. It will be interesting to see whether the arrival of several foreign players impact on the atmosphere among the squad.

Some of the supporters’ fears reduced following the Pozzos’ statement which was released a couple of weeks ago and then further following Zola’s press conference last week. Ultimately though, actions will speak louder than words and the new owners will be given time.

The management trio of chief executive Scott Duxbury, technical director Gian Luca Nani and head coach Zola left West Ham two years ago with their reputations damaged after just surviving relegation and the club in financial turmoil. It seems the Pozzos will be taking a back-seat when it comes to the running of the club but the Watford fans are willing to give Duxbury, Nani and Zola a chance.

Whatever happens, Watford are unlikely to be the same again. Will it be for the better? Time will tell.




5 Comments

  1. Heath Chesters

    16 July, 2012 at 19:35

    I would like to thank Frank Smith of The Watford Observer, for his collaboration with this article.

    With all the activity at both Watford FC and Granada CF in recent weeks, it has been a very busy time for us both, as we cover the latest news for both clubs.

  2. Blaugrana7

    16 July, 2012 at 23:10

    Udinese, Granada and Watford are owned by the same family? I thought this was against UEFA rules

    • Heath Chesters

      18 July, 2012 at 00:03

      Not if the teams are in different countries, similar to the “Red Bull” franchise teams in USA, Brazil, Germany, Austria, etc…

      Only problem that Udinese, Granada & Watford might face in the future, is if more than one of the teams qualified for Europe. UEFA rules prohibit more than one team owned by the same entity, group or individual, from competing in the same European competition.

      Unlikely to be an immediate problem, but who knows in the next few years. Udinese have qualified for the Champions League last two seasons. Granada CF could be knocking on the door of European football in the next few years, if they continue to make progress. May be a while away for Watford of course, but never say never.

      I guess we’ll see what happens should the situation arise.

  3. Bob Gant

    18 July, 2012 at 11:58

    Their reach is a lot further than you think. They also have controlling interests in Cadiz, and now Oviedo (3rd division clubs). Udinese players go on loan to Granada, Granada players go on loan to Cadiz etc. There could be a scenario in the 2013-14 season, where they have controlling interests in three Spanish second division clubs (Granada narrowly escaped relegation last season, they’re not all that). The culprit in all this, is the Spanish Football League, who allow these conflicts of interest to run rife. Believe me when I say this kind of activity is not good for football.

    • Heath Chesters

      18 July, 2012 at 19:42

      Bob, Udinese and the Pozzo family have absolutely nothing to do with Cádiz CF, Real Oviedo, or any other Spanish clubs, apart from Granada CF.

      Quique Pina is the Club President at Granada CF, but he owns no rights or shares in the club. He is a figurehead, who was appointed to steer the ship, if you will. He and Sporting Director Juan Carlos Cordero performed superbly in their roles and as such, received contact from various clubs around Spain and Europe, to seek advice and/or assistance.

      Cádiz CF were one such club and Quique Pina’s involvement with them, was to oversee their sporting strategy. Again, he wasn’t owner, didn’t have shares, though there was an option for him to buy the club drafted. Ultimately he didn’t take that option.

      Things with Real Oviedo may be somewhat different. Quique Pina is currently negotiating on behalf of a consortium, interested in buying the club. This is nothing to do with the Pozzo family or Udinese, but as happened at Cádiz CF, there may be some player loans from Granada CF. Technically speaking though

      Legally and indeed sportingly, there are no conflicts of interest. Whilst there is always the moral issue of clubs being able to loan in players without limit in Spain, it is actually a pretty cost-effective way to build a squad. The point of this is not lost on many clubs, crippled with debt.

      There are actually regulations in place, that would prevent the sort of scenario you’re referring to, even though you misunderstand the truth of the situations at the clubs you mentioned. For example, had Granada CF been relegated last season Cádiz CF promoted, even though Quique Pina had no shares or ownership of either club (plus again, the Pozzo family and Udinese weren’t involved at all with Cádiz), Quique Pine being involved in any capacity (President, Sporting Director, etc…) would be construed as a “conflict of interests” and thus, he would have had to choose one club or the other.

      As for “this kind of activity” not being good for football, it perhaps depends upon your perspective. Nobody is doing anything wrong. Nobody is breaching any current Spanish, English, Italian, UEFA or FIFA regulations.

      Had Udinese, the Pozzo family and Quique Pina not become involved at Granada CF, simply put, they wouldn’t exist today. They were two weeks from closure in the summer of 2009. Ask over 20,000 fans packed into Nuevo Los Cármenes in Granada each week if it’s been good for them… you’ll get a deafeningly load roar of approval.

      Thank you for sharing your opinion however, but it is always worth checking what the facts actually are, when entering into a debate. Mind you, you’ll not hear me applauding those running the Spanish Football League either. They seem to trip over themselves at every turn.

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