Why Matteo Ahlinvi would be a good long-term signing for Watford

According to claims from French outlet Foot Mercato (h/t Hertfordshire Live), Watford are keeping close tabs on Nimes midfielder Matteo Ahlinvi ahead of a potential transfer swoop in the January window. 

The Hornets, though, aren’t alone in their pursuit of the 21-year-old Benin international. Bundesliga outfit Stuttgart and Swiss giants BSC Young Boys are also scouting the young midfielder heading into the mid-season trading period. (Foot Mercato h/t Hertfordshire Live)

Profile

Matteo Ahlinvi had stints in the youth ranks of various lower-division clubs in France before completing his development at Guingamp. He represented the club at the reserve level before departing for Nimes Olympique in 2019.

The midfielder was promoted to the first-team ranks in the summer after impressing for the reserve side last term and has made 8 appearances in Ligue 1 so far this season.

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Nimes’ French forward Matteo Ahlinvi (L) fights for the ball with Saint-Etienne’s French midfielder Mahdi Camara (R) during the French L1 football match between AS Saint-Etienne and Nimes Olympium at the Geoffroy-Gui-chard stadium in Saint-Etienne, central France, on December 20, 2020. (Photo by PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP via Getty Images)

The 21-year-old recently scored his first senior goal to help his team earn a 2-2 draw against St. Etienne on Sunday. Ahlinvi represented France at the U-19 level before making his international debut for Benin in a friendly against Gabon back in October.

Ahlinvi looks like a player with a lot of potential

Watford aren’t really crying out for cover in the middle of the park heading into the winter window. The likes of Nathaniel Chalobah, Tom Cleverly and Man United loanee James Garner have all featured prominently for the Hornets this season while Domingos Quina also enjoyed regular minutes under former boss Vladimir Ivic.

While reinforcements in front of goal should be a priority for Watford (they have scored just 23 goals in 20 games so far), the Hornets should also be alert to market opportunities to bolster other areas of their squad next month. Having said that, freshening up the midfield with some young blood might be a wise idea for the club.

Will Hughes has struggled with injuries this season while Capoue (32) and Cleverly (31) are nearing the latter stages of their career. With Garner only a temporary fix in the middle, bringing in a talented youngster like Matteo Ahlinvi would represent an excellent long-term addition to the squad.

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Nice’s French forward Amine Gouiri (L) fights for the ball with Nimes’ Macedonian forward Matteo Ahlinvi during the French L1 football match between Nimes Olympique and OGC Nice at the Costieres stadium in Nimes, southern France, on December 16, 2020. (Photo by PASCAL GUYOT/AFP via Getty Images)

The 21-year-old has enjoyed an impressive breakout season at Nimes in the French top-flight and fits the bill as a quality young player with plenty of room for development.

The Benin international might not be ready to walk straight into Watford’s starting XI in the Championship if a January move to Vicarage Road does materialise. However, the youngster could evolve into a key player for the Hornets if he continues to progress.

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Verdict

Watford have a reputation of scouring the continent for bright emerging talents and Matteo Ahlinvi certainly fits the bill in that regard. The 21-year-old has already started to deliver on his potential in France, meaning a deal for the central midfielder in January would be a welcome boost to the Hornets’ long-term plans.

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