Watford boss Gianfranco Zola says he wouldn't block Adrian Mariappa's return to the Premier League
Watford have spoken to Adrian Mariappa's agent this week in the hope of persuading the player to stay at the club despite interest from the Premier League.
However, Mariappa's new manager Gianfranco Zola claims he will not stand in the player's way if he decides he wants to leave the club.
Last season was the best of Mariappa's career and his outstanding performances results in bids from Premier League clubs Newcastle United and Wigan Athletic in January.
Recently-promoted Reading also entered the picture in June and had a £2m offer for the 25-year-old rejected by the Hornets.
Both Wigan and Reading are understood to be interested in Mariappa and this summer is likely to be a crucial one for the club's vice captain, considering he only has 12 months left on his contract.
Zola said: "Adrian is a very good player and was one of the best last year. Obviously we want to keep him but we understand that it is not only our decision. It is also a decision for Adrian.
"I understand he has the possibility of going to the Premier League so I won't step in front of him and stop him from going."
"It is totally fair and understandable," Zola continued. "He is a young player and has done very well. He has the possibility of going to the Premier League so I understand and respect that completely."
The interest in Mariappa was brought up at Tuesday night's press conference and chief executive Scott Duxbury hopes the club's plans to reach the Premier League may persuade the defender to stay.
Duxbury said: "We actually met with his agent yesterday (Monday) and explained the project with Gianfranco and what we want to achieve and we will see where we get to.
"We want him to stay but there are Premier League clubs knocking on his door and we will see."
Duxbury confirmed there had been no bids from Wigan this summer, despite reports in the national media, and there had been no new enquiries since Reading's rejected offer before the club's takeover.
Reading manager Brian McDermott has said he hopes to tie up two new signings before his side leave for Portugal on Wednesday and it is unclear whether Mariappa is one of those.
A centre back and right back are McDermott's main priorities following the signings of striker Pavel Pogrebnyak, midfielder Danny Guthrie, winger Garath McCleary and left-back Nicky Shorey.
"We have two targets that we're going for at this moment in time," McDermott told the Reading Post.
"Watch this space, they will be what they will be."