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Despite football currently being on hold in England, transfer rumours are flying around as is customary for this time of year ahead of the summer transfer window. However, Watford have been ahead of their Premier League counterparts and have already announced a new signing ready for the 2020/21 campaign.
The Hornets announced on Wednesday morning that they had reached an agreement with Le Havre’s Pape Gueye, whose contract with the Ligue 2 club is set to expire in June, meaning that the Frenchman has been free to negotiate with new suitors as a free agent since January. But who is the Premier League’s latest addition and what can Watford fans expect from him?
The 21-year-old from Montreuil, a subprefecture located in the north of France, has caught the eye of numerous clubs across Europe, including Watford’s Premier League peer Arsenal, whilst playing for Les Ciel et Marine (the sky and navy) in France’s second division.
The defensive midfielder, who has been capped at U18 and U19 level for France, has been at the Normandy-based club since signing for their youth team in 2012, aged 13, and has risen through the ranks, making his first-team debut in a Ligue 2 stalemate with Chamois Niortais in May 2017.
When it comes to offensive play, Gueye’s stats don’t sit for pretty reading, with the 21-year-old yet to score his first senior goal as well as recording just the two assists in 25 league appearances for Le Havre this season. However, goal-scoring isn’t what is expected of him and, at six-foot-two, the Frenchman is perfect physically for his role, as he looks to win the ball back from his opponent but also to release it in order to set up play for his teammates. But with a short career thus far, will he prove to be a hidden gem for Watford or a mere flop?
In a world of ludicrous prices in an inflated market, fans are always interested in the fee when a new transfer story is churned out by the press; they want to know whether their team has pulled off a bargain or whether they’re getting the short end of the stick. In this case, it’s hard not to argue that Watford have found themselves a bargain – there’s no transfer fee.
It is still unknown whether Gueye will be a Premier League player next season with Watford still well and truly in the Premier League relegation dogfight, however, the possibility of a premature conclusion is starting to look even more likely which would most likely see the Hertfordshire club remain in the top-flight next season.
Watford have had top midfielders who have been pursued by some of the Premier League and Europe’s top clubs in recent years, most notably Abdoulaye Doucoure who, two seasons ago, was catching the eye of various European heavyweights, including Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain. However, this season particularly, fellow Frenchman Etienne Capoue has pulled the strings for the Hornets this season, earning recognition this week from Sky Sports as Watford’s MVP of the season. Capoue has proved to be a colossal presence in the Watford midfield during the five years he’s been with them. However, three months shy of his 32nd birthday, it may soon be time for the Frenchman to hand over the baton to a younger suitor.
Dubbed ‘the next-Kante’, Gueye seems to certainly be a bright prospect for Watford, especially given the lack of financial pressure the board will face following the 21-year-old’s addition and could certainly be the long-term replacement for Capoue. The Premier League has been home to countless iconic French midfielders over the years and so Watford’s newest addition could certainly feel at home in England’s top-flight.