Udinese Club Focus: The Future of the Zebrette is Currently On Loan
On Sunday March 3, Antonio Di Natale scored his 150th goal.
The lone strike was enough for Udinese to beat struggling Pescara 1 – 0, stabilizing the Little Zebras in the top half of the Serie A table—a position where they have lingered all season.
Inarguably, much of Udinese success this season – and the past few years – can be placed on Di Natale. The top goal-scorer for the Friluli side has often been counted among as the top forwards in Italy overall. Currently, he trails Napoli’s Edinson Cavani and Milan’s Stephan El Shaarawy for third place on the scoring chart this season.
However, Udinese does not need to solely rely on Di Natale for success. Rather, there are three players that can eventually fill Di Natale’s role as leader of the club. And luckily for owner Giampaolo Pozzo, they are not only already signed to Udinese but also are having the best seasons of their careers.
There is just one problem.
These three players – Gabriel Torje, Almen Abdi, and Matej Vydra – are currently on loan to other clubs.
Torje is at Granada and Abdi and Vydra are with Watford for the 2012/2013 seasons. All three players have flourished with their new teams, especially after humble beginnings with Udinese. However, when – or, if – they return to Udine, they will become an asset to the Little Zebras.
At Udinese: Torje joined Udinese from Romania’s Dinamo Bucuresti in 2011. That same year, he won the Romanian Footballer of the Year, beating out other notable Romanians such as Adrian Mutu and Cristian Chivu.
During his first year in Udinese, the 22 year older winger started in 12 games, was substituted in nine, and scored two goals. Working alongside Di Natale, the pair started to develop a playing rhythm with one another.
At Granada: He was sent to Granada on loan at the beginning of the 2012/2013 season, where he has proven himself successful.
Though Granada is hovering just above relegation in the Primera Division, Torje has shown himself to be an asset to the team. Often starting for the Spanish club, the Romanian has netted three goals this season already.
However, Torje’s most memorable moment from the club occurred earlier this year when he assisted in his club’s victory against Real Madrid: it was his kick that lead to the header and own goal by Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
In the Future: Torje will be a welcomed addition if he returns to Udinese after his season-long loan to Granada. Once originally groomed to be a replacement for Alexis Sanchez, the young Romanian can only learn and grow under the likes of Di Natale and coach Francesco Guidolin.
At Udinese: The Swiss national joined Udinese in 2010/2011, however he did not see much playing time for the Serie A squad. In his debut season for the Zebrette, Abdi started in six matches, was a substitute in 13 and had no goals.
The midfielder saw a slight improvement in playing time in 2011/2012, starting in nine games, being a substituted into 14, but failing to find the back of the net. However, Abdi did manage a goal during Udinese’s Europa League run.
At Watford: Abdi has definitely found his stride with Watford. The 22 year old is one of the league’s top scorers with 10 goals in 30 games, combined with seven assists.
He has also taken to living in England with gusto, stating the he enjoys the museums and culture that the city of London has to offer. He has even told the UK’s Sun, “I couldn’t eat in Italy because they have more or less Italian restaurants. I loved Italian food but not every day. But in London, you can choose so many different things and have great quality.”
In the Future: Abdi’s enjoyment of London is more than just trying to appease the Watford fan base; he has publicly said that he has considered a permanent move to the English club. Though he has not confirmed anything at the moment, he has told Watford Observer talks of his move have started. If Watford gets promoted to the Premier League next season—which is looking more likely as Watford currently sits third on the table—the Swiss may stay in England, rather than return to Udine.
At Udinese: Prior to his move to the Little Zebras, Vydra was voted the “Czech Revelation of the Year” by Czech sport journalists, however, since joining the club in 2010, Vydra had been almost a ghost for Udinese. Signed to the Zebrette from Banik Ostrava in 2010, the Czech striker has only made two appearances, both as a substitute.
At Watford: Since joining Watford this season, Vydra has become a more established player. The striker is currently the 4th top scorer in the English League Championship, with 20 goals and five assists in 31 games. He was also named Championship Player of the Month for January.
He also has been doing well for his country, as he received his first international cap this year in a Czech Republic World Cup Qualifier against Denmark.
However, those clubs will need to get in line behind both Udinese and Watford, as Guidolin has expressed an interest in Vyrda returning to Udinese and Watford coach Gianfranco Zola is keen to have him stay.
Where Vydra continues in England or returns to Udine will be a headline to watch once the season starts to wind down.
Torje, Abdi, and Vydra have all thrived in their clubs away from home. If they can emulate their away success once they return home to Udine, Udinese can once again be a competitor in the Serie A table and fight for European places.
Follow Sonja Missio on Twitter: @SonjaMissio