With the end of the transfer window fast approaching, Will Hughes and Watford do not have much time to strike a deal with another Club to offload the Englishman. The Sun reported Crystal Palace offered Watford a laughable £5 million for Hughes to effectively see if the Hornets would cheaply offload his services. The offer falls £7 million short of what Watford are looking for, so the Hughes transfer saga continues.
The Current Hughes Situation
Upon promotion to the Premier League, it seemed a sure-fire bet that Hughes would extend his Watford contract which expires at the end of this current campaign. What more could Hughes want? He was a key player and potential future captain at the Club, adored by the fans, and offered a considerable rise in pay (as per Adam Leventhal of The Athletic). He and his agent decided to search for alternative options, with Crystal Palace being his main suitor.
Such is a puzzling decision to not extend his time at Watford when the alternative is a team of Crystal Palace’s stature, especially considering Hughes was one of the few players whose role in the starting eleven post-promotion was not (previously) under threat. Even though Crystal Palace are undeniably more established in the top flight than Watford in recent years, a move to Selhurst Park is not a considerable step up for a player such as Hughes. Both are teams whose main goal is to avoid the drop, and at Vicarage Road, he already has a strong history and the perfect platform to continue his progression as a player into a more defensive-minded midfield role.
While the transfer window rolled on and offers for Hughes did not arrive, he was iced out of first-team training. Even though such treatment might be harsh, it is imperative Xisco Munoz has players who are 100% focused on what is going on in Hertfordshire. Thus, Hughes has been spending time with the U23s while waiting for a transfer to be accepted.
Starting Spot Likely Already Lost
Once Hughes rejected the new contract, the Hornets operated under the assumption they would need to find a replacement for him on top of their quest to bolster their midfield into a Premier-League-quality unit. Peter Etebo has performed admirably in the number six role between preseason and the opening-day victory against Aston Villa. Juraj Kucka and Imran Louza have also arrived to play as starters. A deal for Fenerbahce’s highly-rated Ozan Tufan has also just been completed (rumour initially reported on Watford Opinions, confirmation of the deal by the Club was made Thursday morning). Tufan, who garnered interest from a handful of other Premier League clubs, is destined to play a huge role for the Hornets this season.
Between the Hornets’ four new midfield signings, room for Hughes in the starting eleven, even if an agreement to stay at Watford is completed against all expectations, is far from a guarantee.
The Price Offered (So Far) for Departure Is Not Right
As previously mentioned, Crystal Palace offered a “take it or leave it” bid of £5 million for Hughes. Even though the Hornets risk losing him for no profit at the end of the season, the hierarchy knows allowing relegation rivals to strengthen their squad without Watford receiving due compensation to likewise improve is even more costly.
If Crystal Palace or another club offers the ideal £12 million or a sum close to it, then a Hughes departure should be warranted and the profits to be used for significantly strengthening other positions to boost survival chances (though the midfield does not need any more reinvestment following the arrival of Tufan).
The Role Hughes Has if He Stays
Simply stated, his role should either be limited or non-existent. If he makes the 25-man roster, then he can still be used as a somewhat effective rotation player, even if the minutes are few and far between due to the form of the new starters and the time he will need to be reintegrated into Xisco’s tactics.
However, the Hornets do not have any room to waste when naming their 25-man squad, so there is a decent chance Hughes misses out on the roster altogether. In that case, he will have to train with the U23s or away from the Club, not able to play for Watford or anyone else until the beginning of 2022.
The next 12 days will have to be decisive in this transfer saga. It is safe to say what Hughes and his agent envisioned would pan out did not. Now, he runs the risk of losing playing time and suitors for the foreseeable future, with long-term side effects from not playing first-team football a potential issue as well.