Watford sign Ismaïla Sarr for club-record fee
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Watford sign Ismaïla Sarr for club-record fee

After a long period of negotiations, the Hornets have got their man.

Jake Horwood

Watford have blitzed their record transfer fee to acquire winger Ismaïla Sarr from Ligue 1 outfit Stade Rennais on Deadline Day.

Sarr arrives for an initial fee of €30m, which far surpasses the £18m paid to Burnley for Andre Gray in 2017, while additional bonuses could see the figure rise to €35m.

The transfer marks the end of a lengthy period of negotiations between club officials on both sides — reports suggest that numerous meetings took place on the summer yet struggled to alleviate a deadlock in the valuation of the player.

However, the Hornets have finally secured their marquee signing, as Sarr becomes Watford's third and final major addition of the summer following the recent arrivals of Craig Dawson and Danny Welbeck.

A sought-after prospect

Sarr is no stranger to interest in his name. He was on the shortlist at Newcastle United and Leicester City before Watford won the pursuit for his services, while Arsenal once considered him a viable alternative to their own club-record signing Nicolas Pépé.

In fact, Gunners fans need no reminding of his capabilities after Sarr capped off an impressive display against Unai Emery's men with an emphatic header in the Europa League last 16 first leg in March.

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Despite his young age, Sarr was a mainstay in the first team at Rennes since signing from FC Metz in 2017 and struck a total of 13 goals in 50 appearances in all competitions for the Ligue 1 outfit last season, as well as providing a further 11 assists.

"I will give my best"

The exciting winger made a name for himself during his time in the French top flight, particularly for his ability to produce spirited and flamboyant performances on a regular basis.

Sarr asserts that Watford fans can expect to see three things from him — proficient dribbling, blistering speed, and above all else, goals. Given the fee the Hornets were prepared to summon up for the 21-year old, their scouts most likely agree.

"Hopefully the Watford fans are going to see some goals and the way that I play with a lot of dribbles and speed, and hopefully that's what they will be seeing a lot in the future," he said after putting pen to paper on a five-year deal at Vicarage Road.

"I will give my best for the fans and for the club and they will see every week that I will give 100% for Watford".

A regular for the Senegal national team, Sarr has finally realised a lifelong dream of playing in the Premier League, and the winger is convinced that he will make a good fit for England's top flight.

"It's a pleasure to join this club. It was my dream to play in England and I'm really excited to be here and to have signed for Watford.

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"It was a dream for many years to play in this country because of the intensity and speed of the game. That is the way I play so it's perfect for me".

Where will Sarr fit in at Watford?

Prior to the summer transfer window, the priority for business from a Watford point of view was to acquire a centre-back. When Dawson arrived in a £5.5m deal from Championship side West Bromwich Albion in July that target was met, and attentions soon turned to other areas of the pitch.

The Hornets had also been apparently keen to bolster their options on either flank. Will Hughes and Roberto Pereyra performed well for large parts of last season but the latter in particular tailed off into a vein of poor form towards the end of the campaign, and an overall reduction in the pair's productivity revealed a lack of depth in their positions.

Young, talented, eager to join and already somewhat well-drilled in the tactical demands of a wide player in Javi Gracia's 4-4-2 system as a result of playing within a similar structure under former boss Julien Stéphan, Sarr looks to be the perfect choice to address these concerns.

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The 21-year old is doubtless a coup for a Watford side who aim to build on their quietly historic successes of last season — improving upon an 11th-placed finish and the club's first FA Cup final in 35 years will be challenging, but the addition of Sarr makes the thought of progression all the more feasible.