Gerard Deulofeu was supposed to become one of the greats. He debuted for Barcelona at 17; nabbed his Spain debut at 23; and generally looked like the sort of quick, technical, decisive winger who could balance Lionel Messi for years. Instead, he’s wandered to Everton, Sevilla, AC Milan, and now Watford. He’s still a very good player despite winding up relegated with the Hornets. His agent, trying to drum up interest, recently mentioned Fiorentina as a potential landing spot (along with Napoli and Valencia), and the press have run with it, so I guess we ought to discuss this thing.
First things first. Deulofeu is a really fun player sometimes. He’s got great pace, he can beat his man off the dribble with speed or tricks, and he can deliver some sublime passes. When he’s on, he looks truly world class. He scored or assisted a quarter of Watford’s goals last year despite going down in March with a ruptured cruciate ligament. His stint with Milan in 2017 (a goal/assist every 210 minutes) showed that he can succeed in Italy (he actually scored against Fiorentina). So why are we so down on this move?
Let’s run through the list, shall we? The biggest issue at the moment is that knee issue. He likely won’t be healthy until November at the earliest and may need another few months after that to really get up to snuff. It’s tough to buy a player for the €20 million-ish Watford would likely demand when he may miss the first quarter of the season and could re-aggravate the injury at any time.
He’s also a winger. While he’s capable of operating in a more central role, he’s generally looked best in a wide left position, drifting inside onto his right foot, although he’s also more than comfortable on the right. Still, given that Giuseppe Iachini’s Viola play a 3-5-2 that eschews wingers, it’s a tough sell. Beppe’s already shoehorned Federico Chiesa and Franck Ribery in; figuring out how to add Deulofeu to the mix would be asking too much.
Next, there’s the price and fit. Even though Watford were relegated, they won’t offer the usual discount that sides dropping down a tier usually give; that’s just the economic realities of English football having more money than it knows what to do with. Deulofeu, too, earned a whopping €3.5 million a year and, coming off perhaps his best showing as a professional, won’t be looking for a pay decrease at his next stop.
Finally, there’s the man himself. Over the years, Deulofeu has developed a reputation for, hm, inconsistency. The theatrical diving hasn’t won him any friends, and his complete disinterest in defending would likely put Iachini at risk of a stroke. The real issue, though, is that he’s seen as being a head case nearly on the level of Mario Balotelli. While the (literal) fireworks aren’t so much his thing, the Catalan has fallen out with various coaches, meandered through seasons without seeming to care, and generally driven fans crazy.
Again, that’s not to say that he isn’t magical when he’s fully focused, and I really hope that he’s ready to stop his enfant terrible act and consistently tap into the vast reservoir of talent he doubtless possesses and has only unleashed in trickles. He’s the sort of player you love to watch if you love this game; for crying out loud, Deulofeu means “made by God,” which is a surname worth keeping around in and of itself. That said, there are a few too many reasons for the Viola to leave this particular stone unturned, and this one