Brighton owner Tony Bloom made his name as a professional poker player, so he knows when he has a strong hand. When you hold all the cards, you don’t need to worry when the bidding increases. You have your rivals exactly where you want them.
Brighton have had enough strong hands over the past few years to know how to play them. Moises Caicedo may well have gone public with his desire to leave the club in the final days of the January transfer window, but his pleasantries won’t change their stance. Caicedo is under contract with the Seagulls until June 2025 and they are under no financial pressure to sell. The Ecuador international is being chased by Arsenal and Chelsea, who have both seen bids rejected during the past few weeks. They are not willing to sell a player who cost £4.5million from Independiente del Valle in 2021 for £55m, or £60m. Both Arsenal and Chelsea know first-hand how focused Bloom’s poker face can be and how stubborn Brighton are when it comes to transfers. The Gunners ended up forking out £50m to sign Ben White in July 2021, while the Blues coughed up £60m for Marc Cucurella in August 2022.
Tottenham paid £25m plus add-ons for Yves Bissouma in the summer. The departures of White, Cucurella or Bissouma – nor that of manager Graham Potter to Chelsea – have not dented Brighton’s progress. Have they remained on an upwardly mobile trajectory under Roberto De Zerbi, and they won’t let Caicedo threaten that midway through the season.
“I think he is a good guy, he is only focused on Brighton. I hope he can stay with us until the end of the season,” De Zerbi said this week. “In my opinion, that is the best solution for him and us.” “I spoke to him on Wednesday and told him it is difficult to change teams during the season. It is important for him to stay another four months with us. He is relaxed. I spoke to him like a father, not a coach. I understand when a player has a possibility to go to a big team, it is a big moment. My job is to give him the style of play, but also advice on his career and life.”
De Zerbi’s insistence that Caicedo is “Only focused on Brighton” is now provably false. Caicedo is instead pitching the transfer he wants as a plus for the club. “I am proud to be able to bring in a record transfer fee for Brighton which would allow them to reinvest it and help the club continue to be successful,” he wrote on Friday evening.
The thing he does not appreciate, perhaps, is that Brighton don’t need the record transfer fee he speaks of. They have already sold Leandro Trossard to Arsenal for a fee which could reach £27m, in this window. Trossard had fallen out with De Zerbi and was soon to be out of contract.
Once again, the transfer fee achieved appears to be at the very top end of the scale. The club has asked Caicedo to stay away from the training ground until February 1 when the transfer window will have closed. He won’t be involved in their FA Cup tie against Liverpool on Sunday. The plan is a simple one: protect your most valuable asset and sell at a time when it su