New signing Alexander Merkel says it was entirely his decision to join Watford and revealed he is fulfilling a dream by playing in England.
The 21-year-old German midfielder has been linked with a move to the Hornets for some time and today finalised a loan deal from Udinese until the end of the season.
Watford have a close relationship with Udinese because both clubs are owned by the Pozzo family but Merkel says the decision to move to Vicarage Road was left completely up to him.
“The Udinese president spoke with me at the start of December and wondered if I could imagine myself going to Watford,” he told the Watford Observer.
“I said to him I wanted to go because it was another country and I wanted to try something new and then two weeks ago I made the decision.
“I had lived in Italy for close to six years and it was good for me but I wanted to move - it was 100 per cent my decision to go to Watford.”
Merkel’s motivation stemmed not only from a desire to play more regular football but also from his boyhood dream to ply his trade in England.
“It’s always been my ambition to play in England,” Merkel said. “For every footballer it’s a dream – all modern footballers want to play here so I'm really happy to be here.
“I watched a lot of English football growing up. It’s everywhere – in Germany everyone is watching the Premier League - so to play in England is a big dream for me.
“I always watched the big teams of course but now my favourite team is Watford, maybe it wasn’t before, usually I'm a guy who loves the club he is playing for so now I love Watford FC.”
Merkel is slight in stature and known for his precision rather than power.
Previously likened to Bayern Munich’s Mario Gotze by one respected German journalist, Merkel admits he is not a physical player but believes he can make an impact with “the ideas in his head”.
“I am not the guy who is very fast or very physical,” he said. “I am the guy who plays football, who likes to have the ball at his feet and to give the passes.
“You need a mix in every game. You need fast players, physical players and some players who play with the ball - you need the right mix.
“I have a lot of ideas in my head so maybe I can help the team with some of those ideas.”
Several former Watford loanees have since had their deals made permanent including the likes of Almen Abdi, Daniel Pudil and Ikechi Anya but Merkel refused to be drawn on his future beyond the end of the season.
The young playmaker says his sole focus is on playing regular first-team football and helping Watford climb back into the play-off spots.
“I followed the team last year and they were so close to going up to the Premier League,” he said.
“My aim is to play as much as possible – every player wants to play as much as they can and I want to help the team and maybe get into the play-offs.
“It has been frustrating not playing as much as I would have liked. When you don’t play football regularly it’s not ideal, I don’t want to sit on the bench. Everyone wants to stay on the pitch and I'm no different.”
Sitting on the bench was something Merkel had to grow used to at AC Milan, whom he joined in 2008 as a teenager.
After failing to break into the side, the youngster left for Genoa in a co-ownership deal where he enjoyed a successful spell before reuniting with the Rossoneri on loan in January 2012.
Merkel trained alongside the likes of Kaka, Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf at the Italian giants and he admits it is an experience he will never forget.
He said: “Going to AC Milan was the first step in my career and that was the biggest moment for me until now because I played alongside some big stars.
“It was a real pleasure to play with some of that kind of player and I will never forget that.
“From the top players you can learn every day because their quality is so high and I enjoyed every moment with those guys.”
Merkel, who speaks English, has already been training with his new teammates at London Colney and has struck a good relationship with Abdi, who speaks several languages including German.
The former Stuttgart trainee, who travelled to England alone, said: “I am really happy because it’s a new start for me to play in England - it’s a different country and a different culture so I'm looking forward to playing here.
“I am working hard to get match fit as soon as possible so I can show the Watford fans what I can do.”