LONDON (Reuters) - Watford midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure produced the sort of second-half cameo display in a 1-1 Premier League draw with Newcastle United on Saturday to explain why his own manager believes he will be a target in the January transfer window.
The midfielder scored with a 82nd-miute header and then missed an even easier chance as he forced his way into the visitors' box with a series of surging runs.
Last week Watford manager Javi Gracia said he wasn't surprised by the rumoured interest in the Frenchman who has been linked with a move to Premier League rivals Everton and Paris St-Germain.
"For me Doucoure is a great player, a very important player for us. It doesn't surprise me other clubs want to sign him because he's a very good player," said Gracia.
"In this moment he's playing for us and I tried to help him to improve his level, thinking he's going to be with us for a long time."
Even though Watford owner Gino Pozzo says he does not expect Doucoure to leave "immediately", Watford's business model is traditionally built around cashing in on their leading talent, with Richarlison allowed to join Everton in the close season for 40 million pounds.
Doucoure's power is particularly impressive, with the 25-year-old consistently bursting forward from deep-lying positions. Since joining in 2016, he has emerged as a major force and was last season voted Watford player of the season.
But the French under-21 international has previously hinted that he would like to grace the biggest stage possible and British media have reported that a move is likely.
On Saturday, Gracia chose to start Doucoure on the bench, afterwards defending a decision that robbed Watford of much of their forward thrust.
"It was the moment to change the players because some of them need rest and today if you see Doucoure this season he is the third player with the most minutes (played)," he said.
"I have to choose in all the games different players and in this moment playing every three, four days I have to give the chances for all of my players."
Pressed further on if six changes was too many, the Hornets boss responded: "If you see the result you can say that but I don't agree."
(Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Christian Radnedge)