There were a large amount of football fans on Twitter over the summer who suggested that Watford’s success was about to disappear as quickly as it had materialised.
The Football League’s decision to cap foreign loans, coupled with their transfer embargo, was supposedly the end for Gianfranco Zola‘s grand plans in Hertfordshire.
Clearly though, the supporters who made those comments did not look far enough into the situation at Vicarage Road.
Watford started this season by winning away at Birmingham, before thumping Bournemouth 6-1 on Saturday to move top of the Championship.
What’s more, they obtained those results with a number of the players which featured for them on loan last season, as well as several new faces.
How exactly then, did this misunderstanding surrounding the state of affairs at Watford occur?
Zola’s men dominated teams as a matter of course in the league last season, coming up just short of automatic promotion and losing out to Crystal Palace in the play-off final.
Their success was in large part down to ten players they picked up on loan from Udinese before the season began, as well as two from Granada, and also Nathaniel Chalobah and Geoffrey Mujangi Bia.
The influx of new faces followed the sale of the club by now disgraced former owner Laurence Bassini.
Particularly impressed with Watford’s unique Harefield Academy setup, the Pozzo family had come in to bring Watford under their football umbrella, which already incorporated Udinese and Granada.
That left the door open to what many saw as the exploitation of a ‘loophole’ in Football League rules.
Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway, one might remember, was particularly vociferous about how Watford were, in his eyes, gaining success through an unethical method.
It was therefore a great source of relief for fans and officials of opposing teams then, when the Hornets were placed under a transfer embargo in March, due to the misgivings of former owner Bassini.
But it was also the first misunderstanding fans of opposing teams appeared to have about Watford.
While a transfer embargo more often than not means a club is banned from purchasing players, for Watford, it simply meant paperwork related to transfers had to be scrutinised by an extra pair of eyes or two.
Unknowing of this though, the Football League’s decision in June to cap the number of foreign loans its clubs were allowed to make caused great excitement among opposing fans.
With a ban imposed on transfers and the amount of loans allowed capped, where on earth could Watford possibly go from there?
Unfortunately for those fans who misread the situation however, Zola’s side were safe in the knowledge that they could freely transfer players from Udinese and Granada to Watford, just on permanent deals as opposed to loan deals.
This has led to supporters claiming that Watford have exploited ‘another loophole’, but have they really?
The case would appear to be rather that the Hornets have benefited from having been taken over by owners who seem rather savvy in how they go about their business in the football world.
Indeed, the Pozzo model has been described by a reputable Italian financial newspaper, Il Sole 24 Ore, as running “like a Swiss watch.”
Cultivating talent spotted in their wide-reaching scouting system, the Pozzo’s have helped turn Udinese, who they purchased in 1986, into a stable club that consistently punch above their weight in Serie A.
They have done that by constantly recycling and refreshing the Udinese squad, selling players when the time is right to ensure the club remains financially secure, but not too the detriment of their on-the-field capabilities.
The most notable player they have sounded out and brought through their ranks is Alexis Sanchez, who is now at Barcelona, but they managed similar outcomes with the likes of David Pizarro, Per Kroldrup and Sulley Muntari.
As one can imagine, commanding an operation such as the Pozzo’s does require a larger pool of players than usual, but that means they are free to rotate players about between their three sides.
It is therefore more of a blessing for Watford that they can benefit from their owners’ system, rather than the exploitation of any ‘loophole’.
Whether the system is ethically correct is debatable, but no rules are being broken.
Really, it is a different approach to football which has never before been seen in England.
The rights and wrongs could be debated for hours on end, but the bottom line is that a football-loving family has found a way to produce financial and on-the-field results for its clubs.
Watford are therefore in a privileged position and their fans will surely enjoy every moment of their time under Pozzo ownership, certainly until such a time as the model changes to one of less success.