Ever since Giampaolo Pozzo entered the world of football when he purchased Serie A club Udinese back in 1986, he and his family have built their own empire by way of guiding their clubs to new heights. After a rocky start in Udine which saw the club relegated to Serie B following a betting scandal, Pozzo went right back to basics and built a club which is this year celebrating its 24th consecutive year as a Serie A side. This sound guidance has seen him having previously been voted the best president in Serie A a decade ago, before a year later branching out into La Liga with the purchase of Granada FC. He spent seven years as owner there before ultimately selling in 2016 to Chinese businessman, Jiang Lizhang. In June 2012, however, another project of his was born.
That project would come in the form of Watford – a London-based side struggling with life in the second tier of English football. Laurence Bassini agreed to sell the Hornets to Pozzo, and the Italian would start something of a meteoric dynasty at Vicarage Road which is currently seeing them enjoying their fourth consecutive year in the Premier League – the longest spell they have had in the top flight since being relegated from the then-Division 1 back in 1988. They have been something of a yoyo club since then, spending a little time in the Premier League in between First Division / Championship spells. Pozzo handed ownership and control of the club to son Gino, but between them this has arguably been the most successful spell for some time at the club.
Many players from Pozzo’s other clubs have been sent to Watford to help rebuild the Hornets into a force in English football, including the likes of Matej Vydra – now plying his trade at Premier League rivals Burnley. Scouting has always been a strong suit of Pozzo and those around him, with several top players emerging as a result of his searches for new talent. The likes of Alexis Sanchez – now at Man Utd having previously played for Arsenal and Barcelona – and Fabio Quagliarella of Sampdoria have passed through the Udinese door during Pozzo’s time in charge. These deals have both strengthened his team at the time and gone on to finance further strengthening upon their departure, and arguably both Watford and Udinese are still benefiting from such business strategies even today.
After the first three games of the new season, Watford find themselves in fourth place with three wins from three, with Udinese seventh in Serie A (though both Fiorentina and Girona have played a game less at the time of writing). The Pozzo family made history when they became the first family to own clubs in the top flights of Italy, Spain and England – and their contacts and dealings have tended to be of benefit to each of their clubs. They have developed something of a reputation for rotating managers – especially at Watford, who have seen 10 different people holding the post in the six years since Giampaolo’s arrival. Incidentally, the first managerial casualty of his reign was Sean Dyche, who is now managing the aforementioned Vydra at Burnley.
Of course, there is still much football to be played this season, but the question of whether or not Watford can move on and finish higher than their 14th place last season remains to be seen (though they are off to as good a start as could have been hoped for). Udinese also finished 14th in Serie A last year, and so an improved position this term is surely something they will be looking for as both clubs continue to move forward, side by side and yet 1,018 miles apart.
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