As an ever-present figure in the Derby County side since the age of sixteen, Will Hughes is on the verge of a £8million transfer to Premier League side Watford.
With a new manager at the helm for the Hornets, Marco Silva has looked to increase his homegrown cohort by pursuing the England U21 star.
Similarly, new Rams boss Gary Rowett is hard at work rebuilding his own lineup having already signed defenders Andre Wisdom and Curtis Davies.
Speaking on Talksport, Rowett said: “We’re gonna need to do a few outs to balance things up and then we can go again”
Without specifically mentioning a possible departure of Hughes, reports have suggested Rowett is willing to let some of the clubs ‘prized assets’ leave in a bid to strengthen other areas.
As far as these ‘prized assets are concerned, the club probably has three or four names to work with. Having already rejected a £7.2million bid by Huddersfield for Tom Ince, Mel Morris has clearly set price tags on some players.
All transfer windows are full of rumours and daft ideas but with word circulating of Richard Keogh’s departure, I wouldn’t say this one is daft in the slightest.
So was far as Watford’s interest in Hughes goes, should Derby be willing to part with their best Academy product.
For me, the answer is YES. And here are the reasons why.
- Depreciating value
Since making his debut at 16, it has been clear to see Hughes has definite talent, but now six seasons into his time at Derby his progress has divided opinion. I have never been one to champion him, despite being a secret admirer of how good Hughes can be. Being scuppered by a serious injury at the start of the 2015/16 campaign, muddled with ever changing managers Hughes has struggled to continue to improve, thus seeing his value slip.
- Where does he fit?
Upon Rowett’s arrival at the club, tactical changes saw Hughes omitted from the starting lineup. Butterfield was often favoured to start ahead of him, with Johnson and Bryson the two more attacking midfielders. After a successful season in the lead up to Derby’s Play-off final in 2014, the Hughes/Thorne/Bryson combination was unstoppable. However, ever since, a perfect combination to compliment Hughes has been hard to come by.
- Missing end product
Nine goals across six seasons explain it all. I often feel like Hughes just doesn’t know how to shoot. There is very little conviction behind his striking of the ball which is reflected by his current goal tally. As he is more suited for an attacking midfielder role than a defensive role it should be within his resume to rack up at least five goals a season. With goals lacking from his game, it may be wise for Derby to pursue a goalscoring midfielder instead
When Jeff Hendrick was sold to Burnley last season, the sides most physical midfielder was now a position ready to be filled. With Bradley Johnson becoming an ever-present name in the side, this was arguably taken, but still, the squad was somewhat ‘lightweight’. What often got Hughes out of trouble was his football brain and technical ability, but as opposition teams began to target Hughes, he struggled to manage. IF he was to become a little more comfortable in a tackle and aerial challenges he would be a much more rounded player making his services indispensable. Some have argued that the current side misses Hendrick as he offered both physicality and goals from a more advanced midfield role. And with the Championship being a much more physical league than the Premier League, Hughes may make flourish more in a division above.
So is Watford the right choice? Again the answer is YES. Despite recent interest from bigger clubs, such as Arsenal and Liverpool Hughes would merely have been someone to keep the bench warm for the bigger names.
Watford and Marco Silva is the perfect fit. Silva has an eye for technical ability, as shown by the signings he made during his short time at Hull. Hughes could slot in alongside Pereyra, leaving Capoue to support with his strength and defensive attributes in a midfield three.
Troy Deeney leading the line, means there will always be an option for a first time pass out the midfield, leaving Hughes to push further up the field where his flair is best put to use.
His talent will be best put to use at Vicarage Road as the chances are Hughes would be pushing if not starting in the first eleven from the off.
Although £8million does seem a little underpriced, given what the current going rate is, the possibility of add-ons and an eventual sell on clause could mean an overall fee of up to or exceeding £15million.
The old adage of ‘no player is bigger than the club’ is very true. Hughes has never been one to think this, however, being a local lad he has loved every minute at the club. Distancing himself from rumours of a move away, and publicly addressing his current situation.
Will Hughes has been a magnificent servant to the club and it will be a massive shame to see him leave. However, if he is to further develop his career even more, now is the perfect time to fly the nest.