Keeping it in the family will pay off for Watford

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The free will with which mega-rich owners sign superstar footballers has seen a number of managers labelled with taking a “Championship Manager” approach to transfers.

However, while the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City have been accused of such tactics in the past, Watford manager Gianfranco Zola is benefiting in a way similar to that of the less scrupulous fans of the popular video game.

Starting a two-player game on your own in order to sell one club’s top players to the other at nominal fees allowed gamers to focus on one club at a distinct advantage compared to those around them.

And while Zola himself has acted entirely within the laws of the game, signing seven players from sister clubs Udinese and Granada for little to no money will no doubt boost Watford’s title hopes and irk those around them – especially given that they are currently under a transfer embargo.

Almen Abdi, Cristian Battocchio and Marco Cassetti of Udinese, along with Granada’s Ikechi Anya and Daniel Pudil have all signed permanent deals at Vicarage Road after successful spells on loan last term.

They have been joined by Gabrielle Angella and Diego Fabbrini – both from Udinese – former Manchester United man Reece Brown, Nottingham Forest’s Lewis McGugan and Reading’s Uche Ikpeazu.

The majority of these players comprised the basis of the team that narrowly missed out on promotion last term but it is the reacquisition of Abdi that could ultimately see the Hornets return to the top flight.

The Swiss international scored 12 league goals in 38 games from midfield last season and maintaining such form should see the Premier League hopefuls in the mix this time round.

With Watford boasting a number of new players in their squad, and rumoured to be adding yet more Serie A talent, the club is sure to attract some negative press

However, at 4/1 to be promoted, the betting markets show that Zola is expected to ignore such comments and implore his side to let their football do the talking.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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James Curtis

After studying for a degree in journalism and gaining his NCTJ, James contributed to a wide range of papers, online publications and broadcasters including the South London Press, Press Association and Sky Sports News before joining the Ladbrokes News team.