Gianfranco Zola says Fernando Forestieri’s quality has never been in doubt and believes the player has the attitude needed to live-up to his “huge potential”.

Forestieri’s career at Watford has been a mixture of game-changing performances and frustrating ones.

The forward has altered the course of matches on his own on several occasions but at other times has also frustrated his head coach, teammates and supporters.

Zola has been critical of Forestieri in the past as he attempted to help the 23-year-old fulfil the potential which led to him signing for Genoa as a 16-year-old.

On Saturday, Forestieri produced a superb performance which he capped off with an excellent volley from 18 yards out.

Zola said: “Fernando knows [what he has to do] and we keep talking to him. He knows that nobody has ever doubted Fernando Forestieri’s qualities, it is just about using them in the right way that makes a big difference.

“He is learning and he has got the attitude to learn. That is the thing that pleases me the most.”

Zola continued: “He is improving, he is applying himself and he has huge potential honestly. He has power, he’s got the pass, he’s got the tricks and he’s quick.

“He is very young and I think Fernando had a lot when he was very young – and he still has that – but he sometimes doesn’t use the powers that he has in the right way.

“We are talking about a player that is 23 so he’s getting better and as he matures as a person he will become a better player.”

Forestieri could have scored more than once at the weekend and has only managed ten goals in 45 games for Watford.

The forward has shown he can finish well but often lacks composure in front of goal.

Zola explained: “I think it is not the finishing itself; I tell you if you came to see him in training, you would see his finishing is very, very good.

“I think it is about being cool in front of the goalkeeper, to get a little bit more control. Sometimes he misses the shot and he should learn to be more in control of the situation.”

The Argentine-born player produced one of his finest displays for the club at John Smith’s Stadium at the weekend – one which Zola said would have been “the most complete performance” had he taken more of his chances.

“He was good not only because he scored a goal but also in terms of contribution,” Zola said. “He was holding the ball under pressure, making passes and creating space for teammates. I thought he was very good.

“If he had scored all the chances that he had – and there were a couple of good ones – it would have been probably the most complete performance.”

Forestieri was also the star performer away to Huddersfield last season, in a match which helped turn the club’s fortunes around.

The skilful player was condemned by the Terriers fans last year for going down too easily and he was booed again during Saturday’s match.

Zola said: “I think Fernando reacted in the perfect way [to the fans’ criticism]. He played a wonderful game, he stood up all the time today and even the [Huddersfield] fans have to admit he was very good.”

Last season Forestieri was kept out of the team by the form of Matej Vydra; sometimes when Forestieri was arguably performing better than the club’s top scorer.

Forestieri and Vydra were different options for Zola whereas this season the former Italy Under-21 international is up against a similar player in Diego Fabbrini, who is the same age as Forestieri but is a full Italy international.

Zola said: “That [Forestieri learning from Fabbrini] is what I am expecting. Both will make each other better because of the competition.

“Last year the competition between Fernando and Matej Vydra made both of them sharper and that’s what I am planning to use this season.

“I had competition in my playing career in different places and it’s always been highly beneficial for me.

“Although you don’t like it –and I’m sure Fabbrini is not enjoying himself when he is not playing – he will learn and he will get better because the only way you can go into the team is when you get your skills on a better level and you take the place of the ones who are playing well.”

Zola won the Serie A with Napoli, the UEFA Cup with Parma and the Cup Winners Cup with Parma and Chelsea, as well as playing for his country.

During his career, Zola has faced competition from the likes of Roberto Baggio, Gianluca Vialli, Careca, Mark Hughes and George Weah – to name a few.

When asked who he found hardest to replace during his career, Zola joked: “He wasn’t bad, he was a guy from Argentina and he was quite skilful,” referring to the great Diego Maradona, who he played with at Napoli.

“It is always going to be beneficial even with high competition. It forces you to move your backside.”