Incoming: Almen Abdi

When Watford became a part of the Pozzo brotherhood, we were told of how we would benefit from their excellent scouting network, and now, in the form of Almen Abdi, comes our third signing of the close season, this one from a little club called Udinese in Italy. Though his parent club may be consistent with that of Pudil (admittedly an employee of Granada) and Vydra, Abdi does not hold the tag of ‘talented young thing needing experience’. Indeed, at the age of 25, Abdi has actually PLAYED for Udinese – and not only fleetingly. 42 games for the club in two seasons (though the majority have come from the bench), with his sole goal a penalty against Celtic in the Europa League, is not the record of a player on the fringes. The Italian press suggested that Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin was reluctant to let Abdi come to Watford, with the coach apparently a big fan of the central midfielder. But here he is. Having arrived on Monday, he played the second half at Borehamwood, and according to my sources, looked fitter than the rest of the team and rather comfortable on the ball.

Abdi – My mum once described Mick Harford as having “sad eyes”. Abdi is guilty of the same crime.

A preseason game is no indicator of class – I thought Francino Francis looked a world beater against St Albans and that Marvin Sordell looked like a bit of a donkey against the same opposition – so we’ll have to go on his record, which number-wise is unremarkable. Born in Kosovo to a Swiss family, he played for seven seasons at FC Zurich in the Swiss Super League, winning it in 2006, 2007 and 2009 and the Swiss Cup in 2005. In the final league-winning season, all of which he played over 30 games in, he scored an impressive 19 goals in 32 games from midfield. In January of 2010 he moved to Le Mans in Ligue 1 for a reported £300,000 on a short term deal, which ran out that very summer. A free agent, he was snapped up by Udinese for free and made 19 appearances in his first season there. It would seem that, having spent a long time in Switzerland, for whom he has 6 irregular caps, the Italians see him as still developing, though he should be reaching the peak of his career.

Sinking the Bhoys – Slotting in his only goal for Udinese against Celtic

If Zola is, as expected, to implement a 4-3-3 with a fluid midfield, Abdi’s more attacking intent could be a successful foil for Hogg and Eustace’s destructive play in the middle of the park. A perusal of Udinese forums implies that the fans are not entirely happy to see him leave, albeit for only a year. With not much to go on – just as with messyrs Pudil and Vydra – we can but wait and see, but the fact that he has played at such a high level, though sporadically, with Udinese is encouraging as is the news that Martin O’Neill allegedly wanted to sign him for Sunderland last year.

Among rumours of aging Italian goal-hangers and primadonnas, this arrival comes as welcome news, and is the kind of signing that Watford fans will be hoping to see more of, if the reign of Vialli isn’t to be repeated – a fear that is beginning to emerge as the number of old, big money names are mooted.

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7 comments

  1. Re Vialli. The difference is good players rather than the likes of Issa, Vega, Hughes etc. Look at the one ‘old’ player he brought in, Galli. One of the best players I’ve seen play for Watford in 25+ years. The ‘old’ players we’ve been linked with should improve the side.

    1. No doubt, as far as the likes of Inzhagi and Del Piero go, they are closer to a Galli than a Vega/Blondeau. But I feel that the promise of the Pozzo project is that it is long term and is looking to build a good club in the long term. These sorts of signings, though they may be flagships to get others on board (I presume that David Beckham being at a foreign club you hadn’t really heard of would make you more likely to want to join them), are distinctly short term. In contrast, signings like Abdi have a more long term outlook. Although they are just season-long loans, some of the Udinese players stationed at Granada have been there for four years, throughout their rise through the leagues – Dani Benitez, their best player, for example. And they are players that will definitely be able to contribute all season.

      As good as Galli was, one of him was enough. Of course, if we get any of these aging Italians at all, we’re unlikely to get more than one, but it’s names like Almunia – much closer to the Ramon Vega mould – being in the hat that is more worrying.

  2. Just for the record – he actually won the swiss championship three times while playing for Zurich: 06, 07 and the mentioned 09

    1. You’re right. Thank you, duly edited.

  3. […] to the cumulation of a summer’s recruitment. With three of the players looked at already (Abdi, Pudil and Vydra), it’s time to look at the rest, starting with the nineteen year old […]

  4. […] The man who’s played where we want to be. Europe. Albeit just a game at Parkhead against Celtic, he’s been there and done that, to a degree. Has looked a bit off the pace in recent games, but having actually played for Udinese he should get up to scratch eventually, and will bring some continental verve to the midfield. […]

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