Sarr: “I Must Prove Myself”
Despite missing pre-season because of international commitments and having to play catch-up since, Watford’s record signing Ismaïla Sarr scored a debut goal at Vicarage Road just a week after heading out for his first training session.
Sarr joined the Hornets on transfer deadline day after a summer with Senegal at the African Cup of Nations, and only started training fully with his new teammates at London Colney last week.
“It’s always been my dream since I was a child to join the Premier League in England,” the forward told Premier League Productions. “I think I bring everything. I can bring a lot to the whole team. It’s my team now. I can do a lot. I am fast, I can score. I can do everything for this team.”
Joining from Ligue 1 side Rennes, Sarr is fully aware of the different challenges the top flight of English football will pose and is ready to tackle them head on.
“They are very different,” he said. “It’s more intense and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to come and play here. I must prove myself. It’s a must.”
Early on in his full debut against Coventry, the 21-year-old was on the receiving end of a couple strong challenges, mainly from ex-Hornet Brandon Mason, and another player may have gone into his shell. But not Sarr, who kept his chin up, continued to make regular runs down the right wing and was soon rewarded, latching onto an Isaac Success pass and slotting home the opening goal just before half-time.
“Their full-back Brandon hit him a couple of times,” said Adrian Mariappa, who captained the Hornets on Sarr’s full debut. “I think it was a, ‘Hello, welcome to England’ sort of thing. He got up, dusted himself down and showed what a player he is.”
This praise was echoed by former Hornet and BBC Three Counties pundit Derek Payne, who knows a thing or two about how physical the English game can be.
“What I liked about his performance was he got tackled, made a mistake and didn't let it affect him,” said Payne. “He kept trying to get involved and he showed great intelligence on the run for the goal. He doesn't just hug the touchline. He also does his defensive duties and all the top players do that. He's going to be unpredictable and teams won't know how to defend against that.”
That is testament to Sarr’s attitude and how well he is settling in at his new club, despite still being in the early stages of his English lessons and not necessarily being the most vocal member of the dressing room.
“I really have [settled in],” said Sarr. “It’s been really great. It’s not easy because of the language barrier. I don’t speak English, I speak French. But I am learning English. I am a calm person and I don’t speak tonnes, but on the pitch I do.”
Sarr is itching to get stuck in and help the team in Troy Deeney’s absence – a player he expects the team will miss – but respects Javi Gracia’s team choices as he builds up his fitness ahead of a first Premier League start.
“I am really looking forward to playing [in the Premier League] and showing what I can do, scoring goals, I am really looking forward to it,” he said. “We train just as normal. It’s the manager that decides. I am going to give everything I have to help the team, but at the end of the day it is the manager that chooses who to play and who not to play.”