It appears that Technical Director Ben Manga has no future at Watford and will leave the club before the end of the season, or even earlier.

The 49-year-old only joined the Hornets in December 2022, but there were rumblings of discontent behind the scenes as early as January, and certainly by the summer there was talk of him being unlikely to still be at the club by the end of the season.

Those whispers then altered to him possibly not even lasting until the end of 2023, and so while this news will surprise, confuse and perhaps even anger fans, it’s no shock to many close to the club.

The Watford Observer understands Manga has been advised of the situation by Watford, with the suggestion that he looks for another club.

That may well have led to stories beginning to circulate online at the weekend about his future.

Manga’s departure will almost certainly mean that Helena Costa, Manga’s Head of Scouting, and chief scout Rafelle Tonello, also leave Vicarage Road.

Just how many other staff and scouts Manga had working for him, and whether some or all will be leaving, is not yet clear.

Manga made a name for himself at Eintracht Frankfurt, initially as chief scout but more recently Director of Professional Football.

During his time with the German side he unearthed players such as French Under-21 international Evan Ndicka, Serbian striker Luka Jovic, French striker Randal Kolo-Muani and Colombian international forward Rafael Santos Borre.

Manga’s ability to spot talent earned him nicknames in Germany such ‘The Pearl Diver’ and ‘Eagle Eye’.

When he became chief scout the club had just finished 16th in the Bundesliga and only stayed up thanks to their success in a relegation play-off.

After that, with the benefit of Manga’s ability to find and attract young talent and also identify players that his coaches needed, Eintracht finished as high as fifth and not lower than 11th.

Then they won the Europa League, beating Rangers 5-4 on penalties after the game had ended 1-1, fielding a starting XI that cost just €45m.

He clearly arrived at Watford with a very strong track record, and he also expected to have a large degree of control and autonomy.

When he spoke exclusively to the Watford Observer in April, Manga said: “I will be responsible for the entire sporting area.

“I will look at every single department of the club on the sporting side, not only the players but the backroom staff, and see how I can support and develop the club towards a better future.”

Before that interview in April, the Watford Observer had come to understand that there was confusion, even disagreement, about roles and responsibilities at London Colney.

There was also suggestion that Manga could be quite abrasive in his manner, although if he had been told by owner Gino Pozzo that he was to be “responsible for the entire sporting arena” then he may have felt he had every right to stand up for himself.

In the same interview, Manga also said: “One of the reasons I came to Watford is because I will have responsibility for things like hiring and retaining managers, and signing players.”

It was Manga who put out a statement denying that head coach Chris Wilder would leave the club before the end of his pre-agreed 11-game stint at the club at the end of last season.

And the Technical Director was also quoted in the announcement of Valerien Ismael’s arrival as Head Coach in May.

However, it was harder to see his touch in new players joining the club.

He undoubtedly played a key role in bringing defender Joao Ferreira to Vicarage Road during the January transfer window, but the Watford Observer understands the completion of that deal meant other potential signings – lined up by then head coach Slaven Bilic – had to be shelved.

Ferreira made just five appearances for the Hornets and was then loaned to Udinese in the summer.

Manga was also influential in the loan striker of highly-rated Benfica forward Henrique Araujo in January.

He struggled to make any impact though, and returned to Portugal at the end of the season having made only three starts in eight outings.

Other signings such as Ryan Porteous and Wes Hoedt did not involve Manga, and none of this summer’s arrivals bore the hallmarks of the Technical Director.

However, with a clearly limited budget and little scope, Manga may have felt the job description he was sold in 2022 bore little resemblance to the reality he found.

It was striking that when Mileta Rajovic and his agent arrived to complete the paperwork ahead of his signing, it was Sporting Director Cristiano Giaretta who escorted them through the completion of the formalities.

It was also Giaretta who was quoted last week when the club confirmed head coach Valerien Ismael had signed a new contract.

There were other changes along the way. When they first arrived, Manga and Costa would generally travel with the team on the coach to away games, and would be out on the pitch with the players when they arrived at away grounds.

That appeared to stop while Bilic was still manager and it didn’t restart when Wilder took over.

Yet only four months ago when speaking at the fans forum, Pozzo said: “We were all impressed with the job that Ben did at Eintracht Frankfurt.

“The philosophy he was following was actually very close to the one we are implementing. So I think it was a really good fit. He has a strong knowledge of certain markets and we didn’t have great contacts there.

“We saw that there was a perfect for because he was not overlapping in our knowledge, but at the same time he was bringing continuity in the philosophy that we have.”

It’s unlikely that much clarity will emerge as to why Manga is leaving after less than a year even if the club announce the departure officially.

However, it certainly hasn’t been a cheap experiment, and the cost of terminating the contracts of Manga and his staff will be added to the settlements made with the various head coaches that have come and gone under the Pozzo ownership.

The only crumb of comfort is that the club seem certain not to be moving Ismael on anytime soon, even though the October international break is usually hunting season at London Colney.

Taking the scalp of a Technical Director is not big news to the outside world, and it’s unlikely Gary Lineker et all will be rolling out their hackneyed puns.

Nonetheless, it’s another twist in the tale that, while not being a big shock to many close to the club, will once again leave fans wondering exactly what lies ahead for Watford.