Gian Luca Nani – one of the most important men behind the scenes at Watford in recent years – handed in his resignation this week.

Nani had been involved with the Pozzos’ takeover bid of Watford alongside chief executive Scott Duxbury and during the family’s first season at Vicarage Road, was hugely influential in bringing a host of players to the club as technical director.

However, the following summer owner Gino Pozzo moved to England and started to have a more hands-on role with the running of the club and a lot of the Hornets’ bigger transfer deals.

Nani’s importance reduced but he was still heavily involved behind the scenes, working closely with the coaches, owner and players.

But the Golden Boys were keen to hire someone with a greater knowledge of the English market and the lower leagues.

Nani claimed he had resigned on Tuesday, the day after the transfer window closed and new head coach Oscar Garcia was appointed.

Tuesday night we learned Englishman Luke Dowling was set to join the Golden Boys and that was confirmed by the club the following morning.

Sources at Watford stressed Dowling was not a direct replacement for Nani. Some of the 51-year-old’s duties will be performed by Dowling but his newly-created sporting director job will involve more scouting work.

Nani worked very closely with former head coaches Sannino and Gianfranco Zola, whereas Dowling will be in more of a ‘supportive’ role for new boss Oscar Garcia.

Watford confirmed they have three other full-time scouts in place and Dowling is likely to have his own network of contacts he will utilise.

The club were keen to compliment their knowledge of European football, through Pozzo and his scouting network, with improved know-how of the UK markets.

Nani, who also worked with Duxbury at West Ham United, is understood to be heading home to Italy to spend time with his family.

“It’s a decision I’ve had in my mind for some time now,” Nani told the club website.

“I feel it is the right time for me to leave the club and I’m looking now for new challenges elsewhere.

“But I was asked to ensure everything was complete in terms of the squad and the transfer market towards the end of August. This is something I was very, very happy to do.”

He added: “I believe the squad is now competitive and together we have done a great job to achieve this.

“I’m really proud to have served this wonderful club and made some fantastic progress, working with the Pozzo family – who I have known for around 20 years – and my good friend Scott Duxbury.

“I would like to thank everybody connected with the club; both the staff and the supporters for the help that they have given me always.

“I have shared in some very special moments during my time with this club. Watford will always be in my heart and I know I will be continuing to have a great relationship with the club.

“The day of the Play-Off semi-final (against Leicester City) is one that everyone remembers. This is the single moment during which I have experienced the greatest emotion working in football.”

Hornets chief executive Duxbury said: “We have very reluctantly accepted Gian Luca’s decision.

“I fully respect his choice and it is a matter of fact that his contribution to Watford Football Club cannot in any way be underestimated.

“He will continue to be held in very high regard by the club, and, as well as being a good friend, was an accomplished technical director.

“We part on extremely amicable terms and I know that all those who hold the club in high regard will join me in wishing Gian Luca every success in the future.”

On Dowling, Duxbury added: “Luke’s arrival adds an extra dimension and focus on the domestic market to complement the wealth of knowledge of international players and transfer markets that Watford FC is fortunate to be able to call upon.

“I have no doubt that he’ll prove an excellent addition and, along with the other key football staff, I look forward to working with him towards the shared aim of future success for the club.”