You don’t find too many players these days who make more than 400 senior appearances for the same club in any of the top European leagues.

In new signing Mario Gaspar, Watford have a 31-year-old who has won the Europa League, played in the Champions League and ends a 15-year association with Villarreal as one of their top three appearance makers of all time.

Gaspar has joined the Hornets on a two-year contract and trained with his new teammates this week at London Colney.

Having progressed through the C and B teams at the club known as ‘The Yellow Submarine’, Gaspar made his debut in 2009 as an 18-year-old away to Atletico Madrid in La Liga.

In the 13 years since he has clocked up 425 senior outings, scoring 11 times, and according to Victor Manuel Rubio Poveda of Radio Vila-real: “There is a bit of sadness about his unexpected departure from the club.

“Many players have come to try and take his place, and yet he has always continued to be the starter. But with Unai Emery he stopped playing because of Juan Foyth.”

From the 2010/11 season until 2020/21, Gaspar never started less than 22 La Liga games. But last season that figure dropped to 12 as Emery favoured Foyth or ex-Spurs defender Serge Aurier.

There have been concerns voiced by some Watford fans about the 31-year-old being able to last the demanding 46-game Championship season.

“He can play all the matches without any problem,” said Manuel. “He has had injuries in the past but now, don’t worry, his fitness is perfect.

“Gaspar is a very hard worker, I promise you, and he will not have any problems fitting in with the dressing room.

“At Villarreal he was captain even when there were other people who carried importance in the dressing room. It was never a problem for him.”

Gaspar’s three full international caps for Spain were back in 2015/16, but he managed to score twice, including a stunning overhead kick in a friendly against England which was nominated for the FIFA Puskas Award.

With Kiko Femenia heading in the other direction, for a fee of €1m, the Hornets could have been facing a lack of options at right wing-back or a more traditional right back or right-sided defender.

“He has always played as a right wing-back or on the right of the defence. He is good enough to perform those roles for Watford I think,” said Manuel.

Gaspar’s last league game for Villarreal was in their 2-0 victory over Barcelona at the Camp Nou, when he started the game and was replaced after 67 none other than Pervis Estupinan, who Watford sold to them for £15m in September 2020.