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Sissoko scores for Watford against Arsenal. (Graphics: Action Images)

Former club captain Moussa Sissoko has returned to Watford after signing a two-year contract.

The 34-year-old midfielder returns to Vicarage Road on a free transfer after two years in the French Ligue 1 with Nantes.

A former team-mate of manager Tom Cleverley, the 71-capped French international made 38 appearances and scored twice as the Hornets were relegated from the Premier League in the 2021/22 season.

He left shortly afterwards to join Nantes, although Sissoko preferred to go there rather than pursue any of the other options, with the French club willing to pay Watford a fee believed to be in the region of €2 million.

Because Watford were so woeful during Sissoko’s only season at the club, the Frenchman was criticised as heavily as anyone else for his part in a truly woeful campaign.

However, many, both inside and outside the club, felt the midfielder was undoubtedly the most consistent performer, performing at a good level throughout the season.

His personal case was not helped by the fact that, as captain, he signed an email sent to supporters the day before a crucial home game against Norwich in January 2021, in which he appealed to fans to support the team by showing their vocal support.

However, although fans and Sky Sports cameras were in attendance that night, there was no Watford team and one of their most lacklustre performances in a season in which they have regularly been bottom saw them lose 3-0 to the Canaries.

After Sissoko joined Nantes, Rob Edwards was replaced as Watford manager by Slaven Bilic, who was keen to bring the Frenchman back to Vicarage Road in the January transfer window in 2023.

Sissoko was also keen to return as his family had found it difficult to settle in France and were keen to return to England.

The Watford Observer learned at the time that Sissoko had agreed to take a 50% pay cut to return to Vicarage Road, with Nantes only wanting to recoup €500,000 of the €2 million they had paid just months earlier.

However, as Bilic later recalled in an exclusive interview, this deal – and a subsequent attempt to sign Jake Livermore – were vetoed by then-technical director Ben Manga.

Sissoko eventually honoured his two-year contract in France, making a total of 72 appearances for Nantes and scoring two goals.

Any doubts that may be raised about his age should be dispelled by the fact that he made 28 league and cup appearances for Nantes last season, spending almost 2,000 minutes on the pitch.

The midfielder has featured in 16 of Nantes’ last 17 Ligue 1 matches, playing the full 90 minutes in 13 of them.

Sissoko made over 200 appearances for Tottenham and Toulouse prior to his season at Watford, as well as making over 130 appearances for Newcastle.

He has made nearly 300 Premier League appearances, as well as 26 Champions League appearances.

He has made 71 appearances for his country, including four in the 2014 World Cup final. He was also a member of the France squad that reached the Euro 2016 final, where they lost to Portugal in extra time.

• Shortly afterwards, an exclusive interview with Watford manager Tom Cleverley was released in which he explained why he wanted Sissoko to return to Vicarage Road.