Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughThe Watford Loophole - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough The Watford Loophole - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

The Watford Loophole

Outspoken Crystal Palace boss Ian Holloway has been one of the first managers to voice their opinions on the blatant transfer loophole in the Watford squad. Watford currently have 11 loan signings on their books. Gianfranco Zola named a squad which consisted of seven loan players to face Palace, of which six were from Watford’s “sister” clubs Granada and Udinese.

Watford were taken over by the Italian Pozzo family, who own Granada and Udinese.  Holloway said: “What if Barcelona wanted to buy us and play their ‘B’ team for us? We’ve got to sort this out.” Holloway makes a valid point, the Pozzo’s are loaning players who are young and inexperienced, or simply unwanted by Granada or Udinese. Imagine if Silvio Berlusconi brought a Championship side, just to loan out AC Milan’s youth, it would be ludicrous. The Pozzo’s are effectively using Watford as a platform to strengthen the other teams they own.

Under Football League rules, sides are only allowed to name five loan players in a matchday squad and can only take two players on a standard loan from any one club. But loan deals arranged with foreign teams are recognized as transfers, meaning there is no limit to the number of loanees from overseas. If Watford reach the Premier League next year, how easy would it be for the Pozzo’s to focus on their project and loan out Granada or Udinese first team players in January to ensure safety.

Striker Fernando Forestieri was also on loan from Udinese earlier in the season, until his loan deal became permanent in January. The Pozzo’s have the power to flick the switch between who plays where for three European sides. If a player such as Forestieri doesn’t fit the bill at Udinese, he will be more than welcome in the second tier of English football at Watford. The only player who actually fit into the loan quota to face Holloway was exciting Chelsea prospect Nathaniel Chalobah.

Gianfranco Zola is also optimistic that Watford will finalize a permanent move for on loan striker Matej Vydra. Vydra is on loan from Udinese, and has scored an impressive 19 goals in the Championship this year in order to fire Watford up the table. The Czech has already attracted the attention of five Premier League clubs but Watford are keen to hold on to the 20-year-old. Zola said: “I believe both parties want it, so we are trying very hard.” Whether or not Vydra signs permanently, one thing is for certain he will still be a Pozzo player at the beginning of next season. The Pozzo’s have built a reputation for holding on to players for as long as possible until the big money comes their way (e.g. Alexis Sanchez to Barcelona for £23m), so Vydra’s signature won’t come cheap for any Premier League club interested.

Holloway’s argument exploits the loophole, but he fails to grant Watford significant recognition. Eight players produced from the Watford academy have played a competitive match for the Hornets this season. Despite their reliance on foreign imports Zola has recognized the importance of home-grown English talent. He has maintained Watford’s tradition of producing talented home-grown players, as a compromise for the critics such as Holloway.

Watford have guaranteed themselves a shot at promotion to the Premier League this year. Do you agree with Holloway, are Watford exploiting a loophole which other clubs simply can’t? Finally, if Watford do reach the Premier League next year, how many more Udinese or Granada players will Zola be allowed to borrow?

Zak Bird.