Moises Caicedo Sale Strengthens Brighton And Hove Albion’s Hand

Brighton and Hove Albion’s owner Tony Bloom knows how to play a good hand.

He could have received a club record transfer fee for star midfielder Moises Caicedo from Arsenal in January, but the former high-stakes poker player turned it down.

Arsenal eventually turned elsewhere, signing Declan Rice from West Ham United, but Bloom’s decision to hold on to Caicedo in January has been rewarded with Brighton qualifying for European soccer for the first time in their history and receiving a British-record fee of $146 million for Caicedo.

It is a long way from when Robbie Reinelt scored a rebound off the post in front of Hereford United’s Blackfriars End to save Brighton from relegation from the Football League and possible oblivion on the last day of the season in 1997.

Bloom took over the club in 2009 and set about putting the club on secure foundations, building a new stadium to end a nomadic decade that saw the Seagulls play games 70 miles away in Kent and in an old athletics stadium owned by Brighton council.

Once Brighton finally returned to the top-flight in 2017, it took even more investment for them to stay there; the club reportedly spent at least a net $65 million in transfer fees in each of its first three seasons in the Premier League.

But in the past three summers, the club’s transfer policy has started to turn a profit. Brighton sold Ben White, Marc Cucurella and Argentinean 2022 World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister all for more than $45 million each, and also got large sums for Yves Bissouma, Leandro Trossard and goalkeeper Robert Sanchez.

This has helped Brighton stay on the right side of financial fair play and has strengthened Tony Bloom’s hand. Brighton don’t need to sell, so when they do, they can get the highest price possible for their players. Caicedo’s sale might weaken Brighton’s starting eleven, but it will strengthen their overall position as they have even less need to sell their players than before.

One of the reasons that Brighton are suddenly seeing huge profits in the transfer market was the club’s decision to sack Chris Hughton at the end of the 2018-19 season. Hughton had taken Brighton to the Premier League and kept them safe against the odds. But to evolve and move up the table, Brighton replaced him with Graham Potter. That decision got a lot of criticism at the time, but has been fully vindicated in the seasons that followed.

The type of soccer played by Potter’s Brighton and by his successor Roberto De Zerbi has not only helped Brighton climb the league table, but it has helped them develop players that the Premier League’s richest clubs are willing to pay top dollar for. That’s what has helped Brighton sell players for huge profits in recent seasons.

Another south coast club faced a similar situation this summer to the one Brighton faced with Hughton.

Pundits were lining up to say Bournemouth would get relegated last season when Gary O’Neil replaced Scott Parker as head coach, but a run of six wins in nine games in March and April, including scalps against Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, saw the Cherries ease clear of the relegation battle.

O’Neil’s reward? He was sacked in June and replaced by former Rayo Vallecano head coach Andoni Iraola.

In what has been a relatively quiet transfer window for the clubs who finished just outside the relegation zone last season, Bournemouth have been the exception, spending more than $100 million on new players. Bournemouth have judged that Iraola, whose style at Vallecano has been likened to Leeds United under Marcelo Bielsa, is more likely to keep them in the Premier League and help them evolve as a team than they would have been under O’Neil.

But Brighton’s success also comes from savvy recruitment and player development. Caicedo, for instance, was signed in 2020 as a teenager after just a few games for Ecuadorian side Independiente del Valle.

He was signed for the future, rather than the present needs of Brighton’s squad, and was soon loaned out to a club in Belgium before eventually establishing himself as a key Brighton player. Brighton were also patient with the likes of Alexis Mac Allister, who was loaned out for a year after his signing from Argentinos Juniors. Brighton’s long-term investment is now starting to pay dividends.

Soccer management, like poker, is a series calculated gambles, which in the short-term sometimes don’t work out. Brighton had plenty of other signings who didn’t make the grade, but Bloom’s overall strategy has led to long-term success.

Even though Brighton are losing a key player in Caicedo, the decision not to sell in January also means head coach Roberto De Zerbi has had plenty of time to plan for life without him. And in the future, Brighton can be even more patient when it comes to selling their star players.

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