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Watford wizard Gerard Deulofeu is a man in a hurry

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'It’s better to play 25 or 30 minutes well rather than 60 minutes badly': Man in a hurry Gerard Deulofeu turned Watford's FA Cup semi-final round in a matter of minutes…and wizard wasn't wasting time in our interview either!Gerard Deulofeu scored twice as Watford beat Wolves in the FA Cup semi-finalsHe was once tipped to be as good as almost anything produced by Barcelona Deulofeu has said his career has suffered at the hands of his own impatience 'If you play for him and learn... you are really lucky,' he says of Pep Guardiola

A little over five minutes into our interview and Gerard Deulofeu starts to motion with his right hand.

It looks at first as though he is maybe stifling a sneeze. When he does it again a minute later, it seems as though he is swatting away an imaginary fly.

It’s not exactly a conversational aid but it’s not meant to be. What the young Watford midfielder is actually trying to do is indicate that the interview is over.

Gerard Deulofeu turned Watford's FA Cup semi-final round in a matter of minutes

Deulofeu scored twice as Watford came from behind to beat Wolves at Wembley last month

‘I said I would do ten minutes,’ he says.

I point out that we have been talking for seven, and that ten minutes is not an awfully long time for an interview arranged to set up the showpiece finale of the English football season.

‘I said I would do ten minutes,’ he said, once more for emphasis.

So it turns out that a player some have said is rather stubborn is indeed rather stubborn. Not remotely unpleasant with it, but stubborn nonetheless.

Once of Barcelona, once tipped to be as good as almost anything produced by the club’s fabled La Masia youth academy, Deulofeu has said previously his career has suffered at the hands of his own impatience.

He says he is not like that any more but here he sits offering clear evidence to the contrary. Or maybe he just doesn’t like interviews.

The photographs don’t go an awful lot better. Sportsmail’s photographer doesn’t need him for long but it all seems to be a bit of a chore. So, pretty soon, with a smile and a handshake, Deulofeu is gone.

The 25-year-old sat down for an interview with Sportsmail's Football Editor Ian Ladyman

GERARD Deulofeu is the main reason Watford are in the FA Cup final at all. His first goal as substitute against Wolves in a fascinating semi-final, just 12 minutes after coming on, gave Watford hope they could recover a 2-0 deficit. His second, in extra-time, won his team the game.

It seems strange he was a substitute and it would be a surprise if the same thing happened on Saturday. The 25-year-old started five of the six Premier League games that followed.

Certainly, frustration helped to fuel what happened at Wembley almost a month ago.

‘It was difficult for me to find out I was not playing so I was hungry to go on the pitch and show what I can do,’ he said.

‘To be 2-0 down is hard but in England it’s nothing. In five or ten minutes you can change it.

‘I always said it’s better to play 25 or 30 minutes well rather than 60 minutes badly.’

Deulofeu’s first goal was lovely, caressed delicately with the instep of his right foot. He didn’t realise quite how good it was until he watched it back that night on the television.

Deulofeu scores the goal that secured Watford's place in Saturday's final at Wembley

‘Then I knew it was one of my best ever,’ he smiled.

Those familiar with Deulofeu’s career will not have been surprised by the high tariff execution. His talent has never been in doubt. Born in Catalonia, he was recruited by Barcelona at the age of nine.

Briefly, he played for Pep Guardiola, who he will meet again at Wembley on Saturday evening. The Manchester City manager has previously described Deulofeu as “special” and the “world’s best at one on one” which is not remotely faint praise.

Deulofeu has hinted in the past that the spotlight was maybe just a little too bright for him in Spain. ‘At Barcelona, you always have eyes on you,’ he told the Guardian only last December.

If he felt it all a little too much then he will not be the first or the last but his take on it this week was different.

‘It’s not easy to manage it when you are really young and learning,’ he shrugged.

Pep Guardiola has described Deulofeu as 'special' and the 'world’s best at one on one'

He was once tipped to be as good as almost anything produced by Barcelona's academy

‘But that’s life at a top team, that’s the pressure you have. That is why they are the big teams and the best teams.

‘The pressure is equal to quality. If you want to be the biggest one you have to manage the pressure.

‘Ask Messi if he has managed the pressure. He is the best and seems okay doesn’t he?’

Deulofeu has had an itinerant career. A flying start saw him in the Barcelona first team under Guardiola at the age of 17 and the next summer he was named player of the tournament as Spain won the European U19 Championships.

After that, things got a little more complicated. Loans at Everton and Seville preceded a permanent move to Goodison Park in July 2015. Then, after Ronald Koeman took over from Roberto Martinez, he was loaned to Milan before Barcelona activated a buy-back clause to re-sign him two summers later.

That experiment failed and did so quickly. By the following January – 2018 – he moved to Watford on loan and then signed permanently last June.

Deulofeu signed for Everton in July 2015 before returning to play for Barcelona two years later

'I am here and enjoying and the most important thing is Watford...the future, who knows?’

Asked what all the travelling has been about, Deulofeu shrugged and said: ‘We all want to play in top teams. I am fighting here and playing football to one day reach my objectives and my dreams.

‘So let’s see what happens. Right now I am here and enjoying and the most important thing is Watford. And the future, who knows?’

Popular at Watford, there are nevertheless some clues in Deulofeu’s past that may explain why he is yet to settle. At Everton Martinez loved him but one source on Merseyside described him this week as “high maintenance”.

Meanwhile Arsenal manager Unai Emery explained Deulofeu’s lack of minutes while managing him at Seville by saying: “He has incredible qualities but doesn’t have the maturity or capacity for sacrifice’.

All players grow, of course, and Deulofeu believes that he has. He was only 20 when he was at Seville but at Watford he has successfully set aside many of the habits drilled into him at Barcelona to adapt to a style of play under Javi Gracia that is a little more direct.

At Watford he has successfully adapted to a style of play under Javi Gracia that is more direct

Troy Deeney has clear attributes but they were not the ones Deuloefu was brought up to understand.

‘It is 100 per cent different but finally I have got it,’ said Deulofeu.

‘It’s more direct play, of course. You have to get to the second balls quicker and take more challenges. It’s different but that’s okay.

‘The first few months here I didn’t adapt myself to the team as much as I can.

‘I didn’t understand very well how I had to play to help the team.

‘Finally I know how my team play and I have adjusted. It is working now and I enjoy it and am happy here.

‘The experience in different countries has helped me learn what is needed in football.

‘You take something from every experience and every dressing room and afterwards you know how to manage things.’ 

Deulofeu was invited to join in the occasional Guardiola training session almost a decade ago

DEULOFEU first met Pep Guardiola when he was still a kid at Barcelona, invited to join in the occasional first-team training session almost a decade ago. To this day, he has not tired of watching Guardiola’s teams.

‘As a fan I like how Man City play,’ he said.

‘It’s really beautiful to watch and see how they control a game. Pep was a coach who explained things to me when I was really young when I came sometimes to train with the first team. It was very special.

‘I stayed one year with the first team and that wasn’t enough but it was so good for me.

‘When I was in that period, Guardiola was the man. Now all his teams play the same football, the same style. He is doing really good things and if you play for him and learn from him then you must know that you are really lucky.

‘It’s not just that he controls games with his tiki-taka style. There is more to it than that. Inside the office, for example, he is really aggressive. He knows how to control his players.

'If you play for him and learn from him... you are really lucky,' he says of Manchester City boss

‘Every player will improve their qualities with Pep.’

At Wembley on Saturday Watford will have much of the nation’s support. City are seeking a domestic treble and Watford are the underdogs. Fortunately for Gracia, he has players who will not be daunted and Deulofeu is in that group. The Spaniard understands what the FA Cup means and what it would mean to win it. It is a start.

‘City have really good players but have some things that we can exploit,’ he laughed.

‘I know what they are but I don’t want to tell you. I am really proud of the season and we have a chance to win a title and get into Europe.

‘Now we know it’s going to be really tough against one of the biggest in Europe but we are there and we are going to battle, of course.

‘I feel good with this kind of game. The final of the FA Cup will be one of the best games of my career.

Guardiola's side have already tasted silverware at Wembley this year, winning the Carabao Cup

‘Things can happen in football, just like they did against Wolves, and I like the difficult things against top teams.

‘We have got one chance and we will fight for that. To win would be amazing.’

As ten-minute interviews go – just over 11 in the end – this was not the worst. Deulofeu has a story and opinions and a little charm, even if he chooses to spread it all a little thin. As for what really lies beneath, maybe we will know more in ten years or so.

He will be one to watch at Wembley on Saturday but we would be unwise to guess the next step. Previously he has said he has his eyes on a bigger club but on this occasion he declined to say that when given the opportunity. Maybe he is learning, after all.

What is known is that Deulofeu has never stayed at any club longer than 18 months and we can confirm that he is not a man to sit still for long.


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