Ajax meets a battered one tonight Brighton & Hove Albion in the Europa League. With center back Adam Websterleft back Pervis Estupiñánwinger Solly March and attackers Julio Enciso in Danny Welbeck No fewer than five players are missing who started as intended starters this season.
Even with all these absences The Seagulls still a fascinating selection. Brighton rose through the ranks of English football with a unique approach to scouting, in which thorough data analyses, multi-year development plans and specialization in undervalued scout regions are the three pillars.
This approach consistently yields intriguing newcomers to Brighton, who were purchased for a fraction of their subsequent market value. ESPN highlights four striking discoveries from the Ajax opponent, that with Joel Veltman, Jan Paul van Hecke in Bart Verbruggen will probably have three Dutchmen in the starting eleven tonight.
In recent seasons, Brighton sold on goalkeeper Robert Sanchez (Chelsea29 million), controller Yves Bissouma (Tottenham Hotspur29 million), game maker Alexis Mac Allister (Liverpool42 million), defender Ben White (Arsenal59 million), left back Marc Cucurella (Chelsea, 65 million) and midfield dynamo Moisés Caicedo (Chelsea, 116 million) for mega profits are standouts at the English top. Where the global scouting of the mega clubs would have scoured the world for the top talents, Brighton showed that there are still undiscovered gems to be found.
But the masterpiece of Brighton scouting has not yet been sold. Kaoru Mitoma after all, it still plays in the English coastal town. The Japanese – who graduated in his own country with an analysis of his own dribbling (!) – was bought in 2021 for only 3 million euros from Kawasaki Frontalethen spent a year as a mercenary at the Belgian satellite club Union Sint-Gillis and is now one of the best wingers in the Premier League.
Mitoma is more than a special dribbler. The real world top in his position not only poses an attacking threat with the ball, but is also a weapon without the ball. And this season, Mitoma is one of only three Premier League players to have been the recipient of a pass that moves the play at least 10 yards in the attacking direction more than 100 times.
The good policy at Brighton is not just a recent phenomenon. Because years before the club started to cash in enormously by selling its top talents, it found one of the most underrated midfielders in Europe on the German fields. Where Pascal Gross was seen in his own country as ‘a nice player for a relegation team’, he grew into a club icon on the English coast.
In his seventh season at Brighton, Gross is now seen as one of the better midfielders in the Premier League, and as a 32-year-old (!) debutant he is suddenly making regular appearances at The teamnow that Julian Nagelsmann is in charge there.
Especially from a tactical point of view, Gross is of crucial value for the refined positional game that coach Roberto De Zerbi wants to play with his team. Whether as a ‘false right back’, one of the checkers or at ’10’, Gross is almost continuously available.
While today’s Brighton can already compete nicely in the sub-top of the all-powerful Premier League, future Brighton will even have to compete for titles. Many major decisions are therefore made with a long-term view. With the signing of teenage talents such as Julio Enciso (currently injured), Carlos Baleba in Facundo Goodnight a large part of the transfer budget goes to players who should have added value in the future.
Brighton wants to find potential world stars before bigger clubs do. And with Evan Ferguson that could just be the case. The now 19-year-old striker came over from Ireland shortly after his sixteenth birthday Bohemians, and occasionally shows flashes of very special talent. There is currently only one teenager who has scored more goals in the big five European club competitions than him. And while he is actually only the third choice in attack at Brighton, after João Pedro en Danny Welbeck.
Ferguson seems to have all the qualities to one day become a top scorer in the Premier League. He is remarkably agile for a striker of his bulky size, can create shots both from deep sprints and off the dribble and plays with intensity on both sides of the ball.
If Brighton wants to take the step from elegantly playing sub-topper to the next English top club, it will also have to hit the target with more expensive purchases. After all, finding immediate reinforcements on the transfer market is necessary if you want to be more than a team where young talents can further develop. And in view of this next step, the successful transfer of João Pedro is a good sign.
With a transfer fee of 34.2 million euros, the Brazilian striker is Brighton’s first ever purchase that had to cost more than 30 million. And the first signs are good: including João Pedro Watford has already become the most effective dribbler at the second English level, he also seems to have made a big step in terms of productivity at the more attacking Brighton. In his first 650 minutes for his new club, the young Brazilian already scored five goals and an assist.
Brighton & Hove Albion FC – Ajax can be seen live on ESPN 2 from 9 p.m.
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