Even allowing for the generally short tenure of a Watford head coach, it’s unlikely that when he joined the club as sporting director in summer 2020, Cristiano Giaretta expected to be working with his eighth different head coach just three years later.

The first seven averaged 19 games each, and the current incumbent – Valerien Ismael – is yet to reach that figure.

However, with a new contract signed and an even more vehement assertion that the Frenchman is the choice to oversee a proper rebuild, it may just be that Giaretta gets to work with someone for more than the ten months achieved by Xisco Munoz.

Indeed, Giaretta played a key role in hiring Ismael, and he was someone the club had in their sights well before May this year.

“During each season we will follow up on players we like for future transfer windows, but we also follow some managers – and we started to follow Valerien when he was at Barnsley,” Giaretta explained.

“We were impressed with his concept of pressing high on the pitch, and so we continued to follow his career when he left and went to West Brom and then to Turkey.

“I have also had a good relationship with his agent, so it was very easy at the moment when we were considering possible new managers to also consider Valerien.

“I spoke with his agent to see what they thought, and they gave us very positive opening thoughts.

“I then met personally with Valerien, and then after that I met with Valerien and Gino, who was happy with the concept of football Valerien liked to play.

“As a person, in his interview face to face, we liked the man behind the manager as well. That combination is why Valerien is here.”

Watford Observer: Giaretta played a vital role in bringing Ismael to Vicarage RoadGiaretta played a vital role in bringing Ismael to Vicarage Road (Image: PA)

The arrival of Ismael was quickly followed by mass departures among the playing staff, as the club underwent what the head coach described as a “clear out”.

“It was a hard transition but it was also something that we had to do,” Giaretta reflected.

“There always comes a moment at every club where you have to intervene more.

“Last summer we knew we needed to clear out, move on some experienced players, lower the average age of the squad, refresh the team and then regroup under a new manager.

“It was a reset. We needed it but we also knew that it can take some time to get results. However, we also accepted that in order to get back to the Premier League we had to make these changes.

“I think, in spite of the table, the signs are there that we are doing well.

“If you put the league table to one side, the concepts I have seen at the training ground from the manager and his staff with the players I believe show we are moving in the right direction.

“Football is not easy. We want to go back to the Premier League. But when you want something then sometimes you have to have a longer-term plan. It is not easy to get to the Premier League.

“Now we have a plan that involves a squad of young, developing players, full of talent, that is growing up together.

“I don’t want to start predicting when, but I believe the direction we are going in will deliver the important things we need in order to return to the Premier League.”

Watford Observer: The sporting director believes the Hornets are heading in the right direction under the coaching staffThe sporting director believes the Hornets are heading in the right direction under the coaching staff (Image: Alan Cozzi / Watford FC)

With Giaretta referencing what he sees on the training pitch and his views on managers and players, it begged the strikingly obvious, but somewhat hard to phrase without appearing rude question: what is it you actually do?!

The Italian took the question in good spirit. He’s a serious man who thought hard about every answer, but he also has a sense of humour and a good amount of humility.

The question may have been a tricky one to ask, but he also accepted why it was asked.

“The role of a sporting director covers many things, and it is not only about football,” he said, easing back into his chair as if he was relaxed at finally being able to give Watford supporters a better idea of his role.

“I need to understand the financial sustainability of the club, what kind of money you can use in the transfer market and what kind of player we should consider, analyse and assess.

“So a key part of my job is to understand the money situation, and at the same time have analysis of as many players as possible across the world.

“Just in the recruitment part of my role, you can imagine the number of names that I receive on my desk. I have a contact book of more than 5,000 agents.

“If each one of them only sends me one name, I have 5,000 names. If they send me ten names, it is 50,000. But you can imagine how big that number gets, the amount of names that arrive at my desk, and the work involved in analysing them.

“Because I don’t want to miss any opportunity for Watford, I do my best to analyse all of them, from 6am in the morning to late at night. Any time I can.

“Alongside that, there is also the management of the team – not the football management, but the management of situations. Every day there is something that needs to be done for at least one of the 25 senior players.

“Then I have to keep tracks on the loaned-out players, because we don’t want to lose focus on them and let them feel like they are no longer part of the club.

“There is also the football staff. On a weekly basis I have meetings with the medical staff, the sports scientists and so on. We analyse the data to see if we reach our goals in areas like high-speed running, power metabolics and so on. If we aren’t hitting targets, then I have to find out why.

“There are lots and lots of things to do each week. Shortly I am going to Lisbon for a worldwide event attended by all different sporting directors where there will be 500 of us from all over the world. That allows me to maintain good relationships, discuss the transfer market and so on.

“My days are very long, and I honestly can’t remember the last day I had off since September 2022!”

Sat in his office overlooking the training pitches and above the canteen, there was another question that had to be asked.

Is he some sort of ‘Pozzo spy’, sent by the owner to watch and listen before reporting back?

Again, Giaretta smiled, paused and took the question on the chin.

“Before I can make any judgments on anybody, I like to meet them and get to know them,” he said.

“Once I know someone, I can give my clear opinion about that person.

“But those opinions are for everyone, not just the owner.”