The Watford loan army: Exciting young talents that have Hornets fans dreaming of European football
Since the Pozzo family took control of Watford Football Club in 2012, the then-Championship outfit have gone from an English "yo-yo club" to a formidable Premier League team. Now entering their 5th consecutive Premier League season, the team from Vicarage Road are quietly setting sights on new targets. Last season the Hornets narrowly missed out on European football but claimed its highest ever Premier League finish while earning a historic FA Cup final appearance in the process. The club's impressive scouting and recruitment team have, however, all but ensured that flirting with European football was not a one-off affair.
In less than a decade, led by Gino Pozzo, Watford have morphed into an attractive destination for some of the world's most exciting young talents. Most of these youngsters have not graced the precious pitches of the Premier League just yet. Like so many other top clubs, Watford decided to develop these players through loan spells. With the 2019-2020 season fast approaching, let's have a look at some of the players in Watford's loan army.
After a long wait for a work permit, Venezuelan trickster Adalberto Peñaranda is fit and is ready to excite Premier League crowds. The 22-year-old has been bounced around the Pozzo's other clubs (Udinese and Grenada) as well as spending some time with Malaga in La Liga.
Peñaranda already has senior 15 caps for the "Vino Tinto" as well as leading his national team youth teams to runner-up finishes at the U17 South American Championships and the U20 World Cup. At the U20 World Cup, England fans were fortunate to see Peñaranda miss a penalty in the final as England went on to capture its first youth World Cup.
Dodi Lukebakio was so good in the German Bundesliga last season many Watford fans questioned if he should be called back from his loan early. The Belgian U21 international is a real find. Armed with raw speed and an eye for goal, he is the type of player that can flourish in English football.
At Fortuna Düsseldorf, last season, Lukebakio finished as the team's top scorer with 14 goals including a hattrick against eventual German champions Bayern Munich. The former Anderlecht youth product is getting a lot of interest from Europe's elite and if he does not play a part in Watford's first team this season there is a huge possibility he might be on his way out for a respectable fee.
This Colombian phenom spent his last two seasons on loan at Spanish outfit SD Huesca racking up an impressive 20 goals in senior football. This past campaign, the youngster scored goals against both Barcelona and Real Madrid, at the Camp Nou and the Santiago Bernabéu respectively.
At this summer's U20 World Cup, Cucho fired in an impressive group stage hattrick as his Colombian team made it all the way to the quater-finals before being eliminated by eventual champions Ukraine. On his debut for the Colombian senior team, he came on for veteran Carlos Bacca to score two goals in just 18 minutes to announce himself to the Colombian public.
When Richarlison left Watford for Everton for £50,000,000, it was the most amount of money the Hornets have ever received for a footballer. Since then, Richarlison has been a significant part of the famous Brazilan national team and his value has increased even further. Watford did not think twice to snap up the next Fluminense starlet, Joao Pedro.
Watford signed Pedro at 16 years-old and with each game that decision looks more and more commendable. The forward is skilful, fast and is scoring goals for fun in Brazil. In May, the teenager scored a sensational first-half hattrick against Colombian superpower Atlético Nacional in the Copa Sudamericana. It is not clear yet when he would be making his move to England but the world's top clubs are already confused at how Watford beat them to a potential diamond in the rough.