When Valerien Ismael was named as the new Watford head coach back in May, he inherited a squad that had just drastically under-performed in the Championship.

It was a large group of players, many who had been at the club for some time. There were several in the ‘30+’ brigade, and others who were clearly going to leave because they felt they could play at a higher level.

As more and more players bade farewell, Watford fans began to discuss how many new signings the club needed to make.

Whether those who suggested ‘a whole new squad’ were doing so with tongue in cheek or actually meant it was hard to tell.

However, anyone who said more than six (or seven if you include the return of Matheus Martins) turned out to be wrong.

With it now apparent that the role of Ben Manga and his team in bringing in new players had already been marginalised by that point, it’s important to try and understand Cristiano Giaretta’s part in recruitment.

Watford Observer: Matheus Martins returned to Vicarage Road in the summerMatheus Martins returned to Vicarage Road in the summer (Image: PA)

“I started talking to Valerien about players from the moment he signed with us in May. He had a holiday but I was in regular contact with him,” said the sporting director.

“We had a meeting at which we discovered exactly how the manager wanted to play, and the characteristics he was looking for in each position within the team.

“Based on that, and upon where we felt we had gaps, I went to look at the market and would draw up a shortlist of three to five players for that position.

“I would use the analysis I had to suggest the players I thought were the best based upon what the manager had said, and then he would consider those players.

“It’s important to know from the manager the sort of characteristics he is looking for from each player.

“An example: some managers want to play with a No.6 like Andrea Pirlo, some managers want to play with a No.6 like Rodrigo at Manchester City. Same position, two very different sets of characteristics.

“I think we built up shortlists that met the expectations of the manager. I was happy, the manager was happy, and we are still happy in spite of the league table.

“Can we improve on what we have? Yes of course we can. But we want to do that by also working hard on the training pitch.”

Watford Observer: Watford owner Gino PozzoWatford owner Gino Pozzo (Image: Holly Cant)

So, that’s how recruitment operated – but what role does owner Gino Pozzo play?

“Gino is involved from the outset because I have to understand the funds available. It is the same with Scott (Duxbury), I talk to him early too,” said Giaretta.

“As I said, the role of the sporting director is not only to understand what the manager wants from each player, but also to understand the financial situation for the club.

“There are no results on the pitch unless you can ensure the sustainability of the club.

“Gino and Scott are always important in that respect, and we are always working together every day, having lunch, having coffee. And we are also talking with the manager, and we have meetings all together.

“We like to sign players when everyone is happy: Valerien, Gino, Scott, myself.

“The combination of the technical qualities of the player, the cost, the long-term project all have to be in agreement.”

Having said he has a contacts book that runs to some 5,000 agents, to hear Giaretta say he would draw up player shortlists of three to five players meant I had to ask if this meant he was a one-man band now that Manga and his network were no longer around?

“No, we have a team of people supporting our recruitment, and they will skim through the list of names of possible players. They will then send to me their best options.

“Then I will check each of those players again, to be sure that they provide what we need. I want to put forward the best of the best.

“We have a working group. It’s not only one person, we have a team of people.

“Plus Gino knows football very well, and he loves to look at players and I like to share with him the players considered.

“Players are discussed by Valerien, Gino, Scott and myself.

“I particularly like it when a choice of player is controversial! If one of us thinks a player is s**t, then you need to understand why someone thinks that! Maybe sometimes one person sees something another person doesn’t see.

“The people deciding all have good knowledge, and it is a team effort, it is not just one person.”

In all the excitement and subsequent confusion that surrounded the arrival and departure of Manga, it was easy to overlook the ‘Pozzo network’ which has a track record of finding many good (and also some less good) players for both Watford and Udinese.

“The network we have for recruitment has a lot of guys based in Udine, and I worked with them when I was there.

“Then we have other scouts spread across the world. I am regularly talking to guys we have in South America, or New Zealand, or in Spain, and so on.

“We have a very strong recruitment set-up, and the main part of the Pozzo model at Udinese that other clubs in Italy wanted to follow was their recruitment.

“They wanted to know how we recruited the players that we did. We were finding players like Alexis Sanchez when they were between 16 and 19 years of age.

Watford Observer: Alexis Sanchez in action for UdineseAlexis Sanchez in action for Udinese (Image: Action Images)

“I think, at Watford, we have made some good recruitment. I don’t want to try and be arrogant to say we have got it all right, because we haven’t.

“But Richarlison, Joao Pedro, Asprilla, Martins – all just from South America. Our recruitment network has had many successes.”

Of course, any discussion about recruitment at Watford always brings forward one name that is perhaps even more divisive than Giaretta or Pozzo.

What exactly is Mogi Bayat’s role and involvement in Watford FC’s player recruitment?

“That is very easy to answer: Mogi Bayat is an agent,” said Giaretta.

“He helps us without imposing anything on us. Football is based on relationships, and if you have a good relationship with someone who can help you, why would you not use them?

“We only evaluate the technical qualities of any player an agent brings to us. We look at the player, not the agent.

“If Mogi brings a player that matches our expectations, then we will consider that player. If not, then we don’t. That is the same with all the players and all the agents.

“We don’t have just one agent or ten agents we work with. Like I said, I have 5,000 agents in my contacts.

“As long as the player is the right one, then I will talk to the agent.

“Each club, anywhere, will have better connections with some agents than others. Mogi is an agent we have a better connection with, but again we are not working only with him. Absolutely not.

“If he can help us, then why not use him?”

If Bayat’s involvement in transfer dealings at Vicarage Road over the last 10+ years has led to confusion, concern and even anger among Watford fans, then Giaretta is not that far behind in the criticism stakes.

“When you are the sporting director you have to accept everything that comes your way," he said.

“When a player works out or doesn’t work out, it’s still your job. That’s football.

“When I arrived at Watford and we got promoted, I was a good sporting director. When we were relegated and then didn’t go back up, I was a bad sporting director.

“That’s normal, I accept that. All I can do is continue to do my job as best as I can so that we can take Watford back again to the Premier League.

“I accept the criticism I get because that is part of my job. When things go well, it is all good. When things don’t go well, it is my fault. That is football, and that is life.”

To be fair to Giaretta, he has got some major plusses on the recruitment element of his CV.

“I was the only sporting director in Italy who went out and signed this young guy from Portugal for €40,000,” he recalled.

“When I went from Novara to Udinese, I took Bruno Fernandes with me because it was clear he was an amazing player. I think we paid €2.5m for him.

“A few years later, Bruno Fernandes signed for Manchester United in a deal that, with bonuses, was worth in total €100m.

“Sometimes the deals work out. Other times, for many reasons, they don’t.

“And that is because it is impossible to control all the variables in football. If you think you can then you are silly, because you cannot.

“When you watch a player, that is not enough, because you don’t know what is in the brain of the player. Once you sign the player and you are working with them, then you know more about what is going on inside the brain of that player.

“At that point you will start to know if you did well or not.”