When Domingos Quina joined West Ham in May 2016, there was a major buzz of excitement around the youngster.
The midfielder was already an Under 17 European Champion with Portugal when he pitched up in east London, with the Hammers beating serious competition from around Europe to secure his signature.
A little over two years on, Quina joined Watford in a low-profile Deadline Day move, having been linked with a switch to Barcelona earlier in the summer. So where did it all go wrong? Why didn’t it work out for him at West Ham?
He made a bright start to his Hammers career, featuring in the early rounds of the Europa League before scoring an outrageous chipped goal for the Under 23s.
That led to a professional deal in November 2016 and Quina would have been hoping for more first-team opportunities under Slaven Bilic, who had given Reece Oxford his first-team bow the season before.
However, as Bilic struggled with the move to the Olympic Stadium and talisman Dimitri Payet forcing his return to Marseille, the first team soon became no place to throw in an untried prospect – it could do more harm than good.
While the likes of Oxford, Tony Martinez and Reece Burke were granted loan deals away from the club, Quina’s ability was such that he was kept around the club and the theory would have been that he followed Declan Rice’s path to the first team.
But, while he continued to shine in Portugal colours – he won the Under 19 Euros this summer – the sacking of Bilic and arrival of safety-first David Moyes, with the tumult on and off the pitch, meant that an opportunity didn’t present itself.
Perhaps the youngster’s fearlessness could have seen him take up the creative burden left by Payet. Perhaps a young player’s introduction to the team could have galvanised the fans, like it did with Rice.
However, the relegation battles meant that both Bilic and Moyes were averse to throwing him in and Manuel Pellegrini’s summer of investment only served to make the pathway to the first team even more crowded in the attacking midfield area he prefers.
Those links to Barcelona show what exceptional talent Quina has. He has simply become the latest victim of a lack of opportunities as under-fire managers – rightly or wrongly – reach for experienced heads to guide them out of trouble as quickly as possible.
In that respect, Watford does not look an ideal fit, with the constant changeover of players and short-termist thinking that prevails at Vicarage Road.
That said, the Hornets have just lost their main creative threat in Richarlison and if Javi Gracia shows Quina more faith than Bilic did when replacing Payet, the Portuguese’s undoubted talent may begin to show.
West Ham’s loss could be Watford’s huge gain and then the club may regret not giving Quina more first-team opportunities.