Former club captain Moussa Sissoko has returned to Watford after signing a two-year contract.

The 34-year-old midfielder moves back to Vicarage Road on a free transfer after two years in the French Ligue 1 with Nantes.

A former teammate of head coach Tom Cleverley, the 71-cap French international made 38 appearances and scored two goals as the Hornets were relegated from the Premier League in the 2021/22 season.

He departed soon after to join Nantes, though Sissoko opted to go there rather than take one of the other options available to him because the French side were prepared to pay Watford a fee, which was understood to be around €2m.

Because Watford were so abject during Sissoko’s single season at the club, the Frenchman was criticised as much as anyone else for his part in a truly pitiful campaign.

However, many both inside and outside the club recognised the midfielder was arguably the most consistent performer at a good level across the season.

His own personal cause wasn’t helped when, as captain, he put his name to an email sent to supporters the day before a key home game with Norwich in January 2021, urging fans to help lift the team with vocal backing.

However, while the fans and the Sky Sports cameras turned up that night, the Watford team didn’t and one of their most insipid performances in a campaign where they regularly reached the bottom of the barrel saw them lose 3-0 to the Canaries.

After Sissoko had joined Nantes, Rob Edwards was replaced as Watford head coach by Slaven Bilic, who wanted to bring the Frenchman back to Vicarage Road in the January 2023 transfer window.

Sissoko was equally keen to return, as his family were finding it difficult to settle in France and were happy to move back to England.

The Watford Observer was told at the time that Sissoko had agreed to take a 50% wage cut in order to move back to Vicarage Road, and Nantes were looking to recoup only €500,000 of the €2m they had paid just a few months earlier.

However, as Bilic later discussed in an exclusive interview, that deal – as well as a follow-up attempt to sign Jake Livermore – were vetoed by the then Technical Director Ben Manga.

Sissoko eventually saw out his two-year contract in France, making a total of 72 appearances for Nantes and scoring twice.

Any doubts that his age might cause should be assuaged by the fact he played 28 times in league and cup for Nantes last season, clocking up nearly 2,000 minutes.

The midfielder started 16 of Nantes’ final 17 Ligue 1 games, and completed the full 90 minutes in 13 of them.

Prior to his season at Watford, Sissoko played more than 200 times for both Tottenham and Toulouse, and registered more than 130 appearances for Newcastle.

He has nearly 300 Premier League outings in the bank, and has also played 26 times in the Champions League.

His 71 caps for his country included four at the 2014 World Cup Finals, and he was part of the French side that reached the Euro 2016 Final before losing to Portugal in extra time.

• Following shortly, an exclusive interview with Watford head coach Tom Cleverley explaining why he wanted to bring Sissoko back to Vicarage Road.