When Watford were bought out by Italian businessman Giampaolo Pozzo, Hornets fans wanted to know anything and everything about a man who is well regarded in Italian and Spanish footballing circles – because, after all, it's not just Watford that he owns. Pozzo is well known for being the owner of Serie A club Udinese but his impact on La Liga has also heightened in recent years.
In 2009, Andalusian side Granada were stuck in the depths of Spanish football, competing in the third tier and under serious threat of becoming extinct. Granada were cash-strapped and needed a miracle to survive. With the aid of his accomplice Quique Pina, Pozzo quickly completed the takeover of the Los Carmenes club, paying off all their debts whilst running Udinese at the same time. Pina was appointed President of the club and their ascent began.
There is a huge reason for Granada’s recent rise up the Spanish footballing pyramid. Pozzo's deal to buy them involved forming a partnership between Udinese and the Spanish club. The agreement essentially turned Granada into a 'feeder club' and Udinese's young or even fringe players would head there on loan.
This meant Udinese's youngsters – there are a lot, as they have one of the widest scouting networks in European football – would earn valuable experience at Granada to give the Italians a crop that were either good enough to play or valuable enough to sell for big profits. It is a genius idea, but not everyone felt that way.
By the time Granada reached the Segunda play-offs, most of their side was made up of Udinese loanees – and other clubs were not happy about it. Barcelona B, for example, are prohibited from taking part in La Liga, as their team contains Barcelona reserves, and Granada were basically Udinese reserves under a different name. Clubs in La Segunda felt El Grana had an unfair advantage, but the deal was totally legal. Unsurprisingly, Granada supporters do not care what other fans think. They are now in La Liga, watching their team come up against the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid just years after their football club perished.
Granada's subsequent promotion to La Primera thrust Pozzo into the spotlight again, as the team once more relied on Udinese loanees to survive relegation. This summer has already seen Gabriel Torje and Antonio Floro Flores sign for the club as they look to build on last season's success. The Granada fans are incredibly grateful for what Pozzo has done for their club, but how sustainable is such a concept?
The players loaned out will at some point either break into the Udinese first team or possibly be sold on. If such a situation arises, Granada could be without some key players and the threat of relegation may hang over the club. It is also difficult for loan players to settle and levels of commitment have often been questioned by the coaches.
Pozzo's strategy does not look like changing in the near future, particularly with his newest venture, which
brings us to Pozzo's latest investment, Watford. The Hertfordshire club have been in financial doubt for some time now, particularly in 2009 when they were on the brink of administration. Pozzo has rescued them and his policy of loaning players between his clubs has already come to fruition – Udinese's Almen Abdi, Matej Vydra and Steve Leo Beleck have headed to Vicarage Road, along with Ikechi Anya and Daniel Pudil of Granada.
Could the Championship club be the latest team to benefit from Pozzo's entrepreneurial skills? He has managed to generate success at Granada, and would anyone bet against him doing the same at Watford? He has also brought in a bright, young manager in Gianfranco Zola to spearhead the new era, and given Pozzo's success at Udinese and Granada his third purchase could see greater things on the horizon in the short term – but who knows what will happen in the distant future?