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Extended interview with new Watford owners the Pozzos and Gianluca Nani
The Pozzos insist Watford will not become a feeder club for Udinese and have stressed their goal is to establish the Hornets in the Premier League.
The Italian family, who also own La Liga outfit Granada, completed their takeover of Watford on Friday.
Giampaolo Pozzo has owned Udinese since 1986 but it is his son Gino who will have a more hands-on role when it comes to the Hornets.
Although the day-to-day running of the club will be left to chief executive Scott Duxbury and technical director Gianluca Nani, who worked together at West Ham United for two years.
Udinese have a remarkable scouting network and sign a vast number of young players with the view to developing them and then selling on for vast profit.
Due to the Italian club’s large squad, they send several loan players to Granada each season – there were five from the Italian club last year.
The Watford Observer submitted a host of questions for the new regime this week and later that afternoon the club released a statement which addressed some of the queries, whilst also providing direct responses.
When we asked if the Hornets would become a feeder club for Udinese, similar to Granada, the Pozzo family replied “no”.
The Pozzos said: “Every project will be individual and local in its development, and we will add to that the advantages we can take from synergies of operation across the group.”
However, they then added: “The club will be run along the tried and tested model of Udinese and Granada but it will remain special to its supporters because there is no way the local values will be in any way compromised.
“We know England is a very different country to others, and football has its own culture. We respect that enormously, and we are aware how much the club means to its fans and the local community. Nothing will change in this respect.”
Watford’s Harefield Academy is one of the best in England and has been used as an example for other clubs ahead of this summer’s overhaul of the country’s youth system.
The Pozzos stated the academy will continue to be “very important” to Watford’s future progress.
However, this was followed with: “But of course we want to make the most of our world-class scouting network, which has many years of football experience behind it.
“That is the advantage of being part of a wider group, a wider family of clubs.
“Maintaining Watford’s identity is key to having long-term success.
“This is not just another club; this is Watford and we recognise just how important the individual nature of a football club is to its supporters.
“No more so than in England, in fact. We’re very passionate about football, and the English style reflects the true spirit of the game.”
We asked the Hornets’ new owners whether there will be an influx of foreign players at Watford, similar to Udinese and Granada, and the club replied by saying the answer is in the above comments, which were included in the Pozzos’ statement.
When questioned whether that meant there would be a small number of foreign imports of around five, which was the case at Granada last season, we were again told that was covered in the statement.
Udinese have managed to build a side who have reached the Champions League qualifying round for the last two seasons, while still being sustainable, by selling a number of their star players each summer.
We asked whether the same thing will be happening at Watford and whether there are any immediate plans to sell players this summer.
Nani said: “Sales are a normal part of football business, although it is the intention for the project to retain its key playing assets in order to achieve the ambition of becoming a successful club.”
Nani, Duxbury and Gianfranco Zola worked together at West Ham United before the club was taken over and the Pozzos this week revealed it was Duxbury and Nani who put the proposal takeover of Watford to the family, rather than the other way round as many had expected.
The Pozzos told the Watford Observer: “We have shared the vision put to us by Gianluca Nani and Scott Duxbury. We are supporting this vision, this project, but they will be the people delivering the plans into Watford.”
When asked whether there were other investors or partners alongside them, the Pozzos stated they were the sole owners.
It was also confirmed the Pozzos have carried on a payment structure with the club’s bondholders, which sees a sum paid to Lord Ashcroft, Graham Simpson and David Fransen each year.
The Pozzos said: “The bondholders have been entirely supportive throughout and they remain committed partners to us.”
The family revealed they had the chance to buy other English clubs but felt Watford was the best option.
When asked how long they had been interested in the Hornets, the Pozzos replied: “This has not been a knee-jerk decision.
“There was a long period of due diligence conducted, and the opportunities unique to Watford were clear.”
They added: “We were offered a number of opportunities in England, but the project we believed had the greatest potential is Watford.”
There have been several high profile cases where foreign ownership has ended badly for English clubs and the Pozzos used Tuesday’s statement to try to ease Hornets supporters.
They stated their vision was to “provide financial and technical support” so that success could be achieved over a lengthy period of time.
“We are here for the long-term,” the family said. “This is not a case of a foreign owner with an injection of money looking for a quick return.
“Our aim is clear: we wish to establish Watford as a Premier League club, which has revenue to help it become self-sufficient over time.
“There are no promises of timescale; only that it is our stated ambition to be in the Premier League so that everyone connected with Watford, all of us, can enjoy a successful and sustainable future.
“Longevity is key to success. It is only over many years that success can be judged.”
Udinese are currently redeveloping their ground and the Pozzos stated: “development of Watford’s stadium and the East Stand remains an essential part of our project”.
The family said: “Any club must have the right facilities if it is to expect revenues which help support it reach its ambitions. Watford is no different in this regard.”
The Pozzos ended their statement by saying: “We don’t see football as a business.
“It’s a passion for us. We have been proposed a project so exciting that it moved us to support this through funding.
“We are not expecting a financial return, rather we see it as privilege to be involved with Watford. But we must be professional in all that we do, to get the right results on behalf of the club.
“We believe Watford will benefit greatly from the experience of the Pozzo family over many years.
“We are hoping all fans will join us as our vision for Watford takes shape.”