IAN Watson expects former Salford owner Marwan Koukash to return to rugby league but has questioned whether the sport will ever embrace such a "visionary".

Koukash completed his handover of the Red Devils to a consortium of fans earlier this month after five years at the helm.

The millionaire racehorse owner rescued the club from financial ruin in 2013 but announced his intention to step down last September after becoming increasingly frustrated by dwindling crowds at the AJ Bell Stadium.

In the past he expressed an interest in buying a stake in an Australian NRL club and has twice, through his wife Mandy, failed in bids to take over Bradford, who have recently refuted fresh suggestions that Koukash was set to take a stake at Odsal.

Salford head coach Watson believes his former boss will continue to be tempted by opportunities in rugby league.

Speaking at the Super League launch, Watson said: "In the game you've got to have somebody who's a bit of a visionary, who wants to come up with good ideas and create new talking topics and interest in the sport. Marwan did that.

"I got on really well with Marwan. In our conversations there was always something new in there or some new idea he had.

"He's probably responsible for the marquee signing and there are other things he brought to the game.

"Maybe he was too ahead of his time. His ideas were great ideas.

"I don't think he'll be away from the game for too long. He loves the game and is still in contact with me all the time, asking how things are going.

"Hopefully rugby league doesn't lose a character like that."

Watson was given his first job in Super League by Koukash following Iestyn Harris' departure in 2015 and he has had few dull moments.

Hull KR's audacious bid for stand-off Robert Lui on the eve of the new season was the latest curveball for Watson to contend with.

He said: "It's been an interesting off-season, although to be fair it's always interesting at Salford – we've always got something going on. But I love it. It's everything I wanted to do.

"It's tough at times and managing different characters is tough and challenging as well. But it's exciting, it's interesting and is what I want to do.

"With everything you face here, one thing you've got to do is get involved and be willing to work hard. I enjoy challenges and look forward to facing them head on. Salford has been the perfect club for me."

The Red Devils were fourth after 23 rounds last year, only to fall away in the Super 8s. Yet despite the frustration of a missed opportunity, Watson felt Salford made huge strides after their close brush with relegation in 2016.

He said: "Last year was a massive step forward. The history books will tell you it was one of our best seasons for a long time.

"We were disappointed with the way it finished – 100 per cent we were – but we've got to learn from those experiences and make sure we're better this year."