If there were any concerns that as a young, rookie head coach, Tom Cleverley might have little or no say in new signings, the return to Vicarage Road of Moussa Sissoko should go a long way to quelling those fears.

That's because Cleverley cited the 34-year-old French international as someone he wanted way back at the end of last season, and worked hard on the deal himself to ensure he got his man.

“Moussa is someone I identified as a key part of my team,” Cleverley said.

“He is a good one for the environment I want to create and the winning culture we need to have around the place.

“He can help us breed that winning culture and deliver consistency on the field, and maintain the high standards we need.

“I had a big part to play in bringing him here, and collaborated really well with the owner and the chairman to get the deal done.

“Two and a half years ago he was our most consistent player by far, and the way he looks after himself as a top professional means it’ll be well into his late 30s before he has to think about stopping.

“So his age is absolutely not an issue.

“He is someone that I see as a key leader in driving us to success.”

Cleverley and Sissoko played together 26 teams during the ill-fated and truly dire 2021/22 relegation season, and being part of that pitiful capitulation is – the head coach feels – why fans may not have the fondest memories of a player that he himself holds in extremely high regard.

“For the supporters, in the season that Moussa was here there were no positives to take away. I get that,” the Watford boss admitted.

“But as someone who trained with him and played with him every week, I can tell you he was head and shoulders above the rest.

“He was consistent in his performances, but equally importantly consistent in his manner and his standards.

“Win or lose he would be the focal point, and along with Wes Hoedt and Dan Bachmann he is going to be a real flag bearer for what I want to try and create.”

Of course, once professional footballers hit 30, age always becomes a question and, with Sissoko due to turn 35 just after the start of the season, there are bound to be some who worry that he can't handle a 46-game Championship season.

“There are no doubts about his fitness, especially when Moussa looks after himself as well as he has done over a 20-year career,” said Cleverley.

“As a player, the slowing down process can come as late as you want it to.

“If you look at someone like Ronaldo and how he is still performing, then Moussa is no different in terms of being a model professional.

“Then as well as all the benefits of him coming back, he gives the young players at Watford the best role model they could possibly have.”

When Sissoko went to Nantes it was partly because they were prepared to pay Watford a fee, whereas other clubs trying to sign him were hoping to get a free transfer.

And returning from top-flight football in France to play in the English second tier means he has also had to sign a deal that reflects him stepping down.

“We have to take our hats off to Moussa, because he has made sacrifices to come back and that’s because he feels a real connection to Watford,” Cleverley pointed out.

“That is what has enabled us to get the deal over line, and it’s another example of having someone here who really cares passionately about this club.

“The more of those you can have at Watford, in and around the squad, then the better it is.”