Upon relegation from the Premier League last season, a mass movement of players was inevitable. In the summer transfer window, Watford brought in seven players, had many more return from loan and administered nearly 20 departures. One of the reinforcements was Croatian striker Stipe Perica, whose future might already be elsewhere.
What Does the Future Hold For Stipe Perica?
Career Before Watford
The tall centre forward started his career in his home nation with NK Zadar. As an 18-year-old, Chelsea spent over £2 million to secure his signature.
He swiftly became part of the Blues’ infamous loan scheme, spending time with NAC Breda in the Eredivisie and Udinese in Serie A. He scored four goals in 22 appearances in his initial 18-month Italian loan spell. Impressed by his performances at his age, Udinese purchased Perica for £4 million in the summer of 2016.
A six-goal season in 2016/17 justified his fee. However, a lacklustre spell, with just two goals in 22 appearances during the 2017/18 campaign, led to a succession of loans in the 2018/19 campaign. Loans to both Frosinone and Kasimpasa for half of the season yielded just two goals. The bright prospect from NK Zadar seemed to be losing his cutting edge.
However, last season, with Belgian side Royal Mouscron, Perica breathed new life and hope into his career. Eight goals in twice as many appearances signalled the now 25-year-old has what it takes to be a consistent goalscorer in a top league.
Summer Transfer to Watford
Since the Pozzo family purchased Watford in 2012 and subsequently sold Granada CF in 2016, the Hornets’ most common transfer partner has been Udinese – also owned by the family. Perica’s arrival was just one of the seven players transferred between the two club’s last summer.
He signed on a permanent basis for an undisclosed fee in September. His current contract runs until the summer of 2022.
Stipe Perica Not Getting Deserved Chances
In his career, Perica has been best utilised as a “super-sub,” statistically making his best contributions from the bench. Three of his eight goals last season, five of his six goals in 2013/14 and four of his six goals in 2016/17 came from cameos as a substitute. But for Watford, such minutes have become fewer and further between.
His start to life at Vicarage Road was hampered by injuries, but he was still somewhat successful. Between a red card suspension and an arm injury, he only featured twice in the club’s first 12 matches of the season.
However, against Bournemouth, he did score his inaugural – and perhaps only – Watford goal. From the end of November to the end of December, he played in all the Hornets’ matches, including earning a penalty for the winner in a 1-0 victory against Birmingham City. Another injury saw him miss all of January and since then, he has found minutes nearly impossible to come by.
Stipe Perica Should Consider a Move Away
Not featuring since the start of March, a total of 30 minutes played since the start of 2021 and only two starts in 15 appearances all season makes a long-term future at Vicarage Road seem unlikely. Even with the majority of the first half of the season hampered due to injury, it was evident that Vladimir Ivic favoured him much more than Xisco Munoz does. Despite being in first-team training, Perica has not been in the matchday squad for five of the last six matches.
With Isaac Success now preferred over Perica, Andre Gray putting in better performances from the bench as of late, Joao Pedro still being preferred as the first-choice striker and Troy Deeney nearing a return from injury, Perica is way down the pecking order. If Watford are to be promoted, more attacking reinforcements are to be expected. As a result, unless fortunes change tremendously, Perica receiving first-team minutes at Vicarage Road next season appears unlikely.
If the Hornets’ form tremendously declines and they do not return to the Premier League, then perhaps Perica will stay during pre-season to try and win over the head coach, whoever that may be. However, considering his current lack of minutes, a permanent transfer in the summer would not be a surprise at all.
Firstly, his contract expires in 2022, so a loan next season would not make sense. A contract extension is not likely, so if the Hornets want to make anything for his services or even offload all of his wages, a permanent transfer will happen.
Where Could He Move to?
A return to Udinese would not be a shock considering more activity between the clubs is inevitable. If Vladimir Ivic finds a job, he might take interest in bringing in Perica for cheap. Belgian clubs who saw his performances last season might take note of his potential availability.
Perica’s future remains unknown, but a stay at Vicarage Road would be a surprise. For Perica’s sake, a move away will be better for getting the minutes he needs and deserves.
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