Watford have a dilemma on their hands this summer when it comes to Troy Deeney. Do they stick or do they twist?
A home-grown striker who has scored 20 goals in the second flight of English football in consecutive seasons will almost certainly attract the attention of Premier League clubs.
The Hornets will be expecting offers for Deeney in the summer and Beppe Sannino has stated that he believes the striker deserves to play in the top flight.
Sannino has described Deeney as “a complete player” and the striker netted his 22nd goal of the season in all competitions during Tuesday night’s 3-0 victory over Leeds United.
Deeney’s performances in the last month have been very good. Any scouts making the journey to Vicarage Road recently would have been impressed, with eight goals in seven consecutive home matches. It is ten goals in the last 12 home and away games.
The player’s stock has arguably never been higher and his performance on Tuesday night suggests that form will not be ending any time soon.
After the match, the Golden Boys’ head coach was asked how much a Premier League club would have to pay for Deeney’s services in the summer.
“I am not the manager. I am the gaffer. Managers deal with that,” Sannino responded. “I am a head coach on the pitch and then stop. But Deeney is a very good player and a good man. He is important for this club.
“He is a good player and it is normal that he would have the attention of Premier League clubs. In my opinion, he deserves to one day play in the Premier League.”
Sannino has previously stated that he would like Deeney to play in the top flight with Watford if possible.
But here is the problem.
The recruitment model of the Hornets’ owners, the Pozzo family, is to develop players and then sell at a perceived optimum price.
With Deeney netting 20 goals for two consecutive seasons, the owners will again have a decision to make as to whether they want to try to retain his services for their promotion push next season or sell if a good offer is received and a replacement can be found.
Another 20-goal season from Deeney would significantly enhance Watford’s automatic promotion chances during the 2014/15 campaign. It would result in the striker’s price tag soaring and would also land the club a minimum of £120m over the next four seasons, with parachute payments factored in.
But as the previous two seasons have shown, 20-goal strikers do not automatically result in promotion.
And when it comes to the player himself, a dip in form during the 2014/15 campaign or a mid to long-term injury would almost certainly see his value decrease. If you only consider the last two seasons, it is incredible to think Fernando Torres was once a £50m striker and £35m of that fee was spent on Andy Carroll.
Selling players can also be a risky business. It is not an exact science and often there isn’t a right and a wrong – well not at the time any way.
Watford have rarely got it wrong in recent memory. At a time when the club had to sell players due to financial problems, often the fees were not fantastic but they were good and the players wouldn’t be sold for more further down the line. The likes of Marlon King, Hameur Bouazza, Tamas Priskin and Marvin Sordell could be deemed good sales. And even many of those who have gone on to achieve further success, such as Mike Williamson, Tommy Smith and even Ashley Young, were sold for good fees at the time.
But there have been instances in recent memory where the Hornets have arguably sold too early and too late.
In January 2010 Tottenham Hotspur wanted to take Scott Loach on loan with a view to a permanent deal worth £2m. With Loach being called up to the full England squad later that year, at the age of just 22, saying no appeared to be the right move. However, he ended up being sold to Ipswich Town two years later for less than £200,000.
So not accepting a good offer because you expect the value to increase can backfire to the tune of millions of pounds.
However, the sale of Britt Assombalonga last summer raises the issue of potentially selling too young. Assombalonga had not played in League 1 prior to this season and had struggled in his four outings for Watford at Championship level.
So when Peterborough United broke their transfer record to buy the striker for £1.2m plus additional clauses, it seemed like a good deal for the Hornets – especially with the youngster fifth in the pecking order at Vicarage Road.
However, eight months and 30 goals later, Assombalonga is worth more than the £1.2m recouped by the Golden Boys.
Those two examples, Loach and Assombalonga, highlight the problem the Pozzos and Watford face this summer when it comes to Deeney.
There is also the issue of the player himself. Deeney will want to better himself and the lives of his young family. Nine times out of ten, what the player wants needs to be factored into the decision in modern football. If a Premier League club came calling he may want to leave.
When asked how difficult it will be to hold on to Deeney this summer, after he extended his tally for the season to 22, Sannino said: “I hope Troy can score ten more goals and then your question may be different.
“At the end of the season we will be able to talk better.”
The most comforting thought for Watford fans is that the club no longer has to desperately sell players to pay their bills. Don’t be mistaken, the club will allow their best players to leave if good offers are received. It is the basis on which most of Udinese’s success has been built. But they don’t have to sell on the cheap to balance the books.
Come August, I suspect the decision made regarding Deeney’s future will be deemed a reasonable success. If he is leading the promotion charge then that is good news. If he is sold for a large transfer fee and a good replacement is found then that may be deemed good news.
But like with most decisions made regarding player transfers, time will ultimately tell whether Watford make the right call should a Premier League club come calling this summer.