Super Eagles Vice Captain William Troost-Ekong said he left English Championship side Watford for Serie A side Salernitana because he felt undervalued.
Troost-Ekong joined the Italian side on loan in the January transfer window with an option to move permanently in the summer.
In an interview with The Athletic, Troost-Ekong said the move was a fresh start for him.
“This was the hardest choice I’ve had to make in my career,” he said.
“Every time I’ve had a great opportunity to go to a club, which was a progression in my career, it’s always been a no-brainer. But it was a difficult choice because I really feel invested at Watford and I wanted to be part of the squad again to get promoted — I know what that felt like.”
The Italian club have first refusal on a purchase before the official end of the loan deal in June, the fee will be £1.5million ($1.8m), and it will trigger the start of a three-year contract for the Nigeria international, taking him to 2026. Salernitana are covering Troost-Ekong’s salary for the rest of this season and have paid an additional loan fee of approximately £800,000.
“Salernitana did their best to give me a great opportunity to try to improve every aspect — playing time, economically and an opportunity to play in a good league. You have to consider it,” he says.
“I got a phone call saying the clubs agreed something and it was favourable for everyone and that Gino (Pozzo, Watford owner) was happy with the deal. He also said it was everyone’s intention for me to stay here and the new Salernitana president (Danilo Iervolino) said the same thing.
“At the end of last season, having not really featured for the second half of the season, it was a conversation I had with the club about what I wanted to do,” he says. “They were always very good on it and expressed that they wanted me to stay and I fought my way back into the team. I was enjoying my football initially under Rob Edwards and in games under Slaven Bilic up to the World Cup break.”
Troost-Ekong completed nine consecutive games, including five wins, before the pause in the league campaign.
“Then I came back from the World Cup break in and out the team. I wasn’t 100 per cent sure about why that happened, but that’s football. So then you start wondering again about what else is possible and there were different clubs sniffing. We got to January and it wasn’t necessarily in the plan but when I heard about the interest and the chance to come back to Italy to a club that’s ambitious and with a very good squad… I saw it as a great opportunity to play football again.
“I was ready for a new challenge. I also felt slightly undervalued at Watford and then you have to make a decision about your career.”
During that spell back in the team before the World Cup, Troost-Ekong scored his first goal of the season — one of two in 68 appearances — against rivals Luton Town, a memory to cherish. “My whole family was there at a full stadium, it was a beautiful day against Luton and we won so convincingly.”