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.
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.
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.