Gianpaolo Pozzo, the head of the family that owns Watford, has insisted that the Italians are at Vicarage Road for the long haul and explained how important the Hornets are to the success of their football business, which includes Italian Serie A club Udinese and Spaniards Granada.
In an exclusive interview for Tales from the Vicarage 2, Pozzo, the 72-year-old father of Gino - who has a more hands on role at Watford, told Paolo Tomaselli: "Had we gone straight into the Premier League, that would have been an immediate €70m increase in revenue. We’re simply not used to numbers like that at Udinese. We’ll have to wait [for promotion] but we have a clear aim, and that’s promotion to the Premier League."
Pozzo also talked about how his family’s takeover of Watford was greeted.
He said: "The press criticised us initially and said that we had a team full of loan players, but they’re silly arguments. What were we supposed to do in the little time we had? The team was put together at the last minute but they were not cast-offs from other teams.
"Watford has to consolidate now. Building the stadium [new stand on the east side of the ground] is the most important step in that direction. But what people have said about us buying a team in England and one in Spain just so we can ‘park’ players there is totally wrong. The fact that my son Gino has moved to London to be close to Watford demonstrates that."
The Pozzos wealth and success with Udinese is acknowledged but few know much about how the family made their money.
Gianpaolo’s father founded a metalwork and mechanical engineering company and kept the business in the family. In the 1960s, Gianpaolo and his brothers expanded the empire, partly thanks to the financial input of his wife, the textile industry heiress Giulana Linda. They took a large stake in a Catalonian company that made industrial fans and continued to grow.
In 1986, Gianpaolo entered the world of football, buying Udinese as Italy basked in the warm glow of the nation’s World Cup victory in 1982. The club remains a relatively modest one which punches above its weight by qualifying for the Europa League or Champions League every now and then.
Gianpaolo Pozzo took sole control of the family business and in 2010 he sold up to the German group Bosch, for €106m, without having to relinquish control of the Catalonian company or some other key assets.
Now football is not only the highest-profile part of the Pozzo business but the area that takes much of their energies. In 2009, they bought Granada and steered them from the third division into La Liga, where they brush shoulders with Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Then came the acquisition of Watford, with Gino moving to England to be close to their newest football club a year after the takeover.
And all of this is underpinned by an innovative business model based on scouting the globe for young talent that can be improved and sold at a considerable profit. The most notable example of this strategy was the Chilean Alexis Sanchez, signed at the age of 18 for €1m and sold to Barcelona five years later for a fee that could rise to €36.5m.
With 120 players in their network, Pozzo said: "Being active on three fronts is something we had to do. We are very happy with the start we’ve made but there’s a lot of work to do."
Read the full interview with Gianpaolo Pozzo in Tales from the Vicarage volume 2, available for £10.99 from Londis in Vicarage Road and Watford Museum. Watford Observer readers can get the book delivered with free postage from www.watfordfcbook.com