When you can’t beat them on pure strength, you need to be smart. The same is the case in football for clubs at lower levels of the food chain. Making smart, proactive signings in the transfer market is the key to overperforming and creating an upset or two along the way. Leading this style of thinking this season has been Brighton’s scouting and recruitment system.
Every few years, a club comes along that threatens to break the established order. Southampton used to be the model club, then Leicester arrived, and Brighton are going through their resurgent phase. A lot of their success is owed to Brighton’s scouting and recruitment system. They routinely unearth undervalued gems and polish them to convert into world-class professionals.
The current Brighton squad, freed by Roberto de Zerbi’s tactics, has many such players.
Here are the five smartest signings in the current Seagulls squad which have made them a formidable force in the Premier League.
Buying from the Japanese league is just not something English Premier League clubs do. Then again, Brighton haven’t reached where they are by sticking to convention.
Kaoru Mitoma was tearing up the J1 League for Kawasaki Frontale when he caught the eye of Brighton’s scouting system. Some European experience was deemed necessary, as he was loaned to the Belgian side Union Saint-Gilloise for a year.
After impressing at USG, Mitoma came to Brighton as a changed player. Kaoru Mitoma’s thesis on the art of dribbling became a hot topic as the Japanese winger bamboozled opponents with his silky attacking play.
He found another level under De Zerbi and is now comfortably a £60-70 million player in today’s market.
When Moises Caicedo was in Ecuador at Independiente del Valle, Manchester United were reported to have an interest in signing him. However, in true “Big Club” fashion, they deemed him not ready for the Premier League.
Brighton conveniently swooped in and signed him up for a meagre fee of around £5 million.
Today, Manchester United and Arsenal are looking to sign him and Brighton are quoting a price of more than £70 million and rightly so.
Caicedo has turned into one of the Premier League’s premier defensive midfielders. His screening in front of the defence made sure Brighton didn’t miss Yves Bissouma at all, who was himself a smart investment by Brighton and fetched them £45 million from Spurs.
Getting two great seasons from a player, then turning him over on a potentially £65 million profit. It’s another testament to Brighton’s recruitment system.
Alexis Mac Allister
Generally, the cream of the crop in the South American continent is quickly tapped up by big clubs and termed wonderkids. It is because the scouting network there is vast and competition for players is fierce.
Therefore, the capture of Alexis Mac Allister is arguably Brighton’s crown jewel in their scouting record.
Mac Allister wasn’t a highly-touted wonderkid when he was coming through at Argentinos Juniors. However, Brighton saw something in him. He signed for the club in 2019, and his progress path was planned perfectly.
He was loaned back to Argentinos first. Then came the next step in his country, with a loan at Boca Juniors. Such was his form at Boca that Brighton ended his loan early.
Mac Allister returned to Brighton on January 31, 2020. In the three years since, he is now a World Cup-winning member of the Argentina side, the talisman in the midfield of his Brighton team, and the apple of the eye of Premier League’s elite.
This one’s success is as down to Brighton’s coaching as it is to their recruitment. Alexis Mac Allister likely wouldn’t have improved so much at any other club, but the quickness in identifying that ceiling is all their scouting’s doing.
Brighton have made it a habit of scouring lesser-known countries for talent to get ahead of the competition. Julio Enciso was signed from Paraguay’s Club Libertad for around £10 million plus future add-ons.
It was another signing that raised eyebrows around the league. How would an undersized forward, aged just 18, from the Paraguayan league, handle the step-up to the world’s most physical and toughest league? Very well, as it turns out.
Julio Enciso is another success story down to Roberto de Zerbi. He has managed his minutes expertly, and given him freedom to express himself in the attacking third. The result has been a player who is seemingly reaching new heights every week.
Click here for a detailed Julio Enciso analysis
Enciso has a goal or assist every 228 minutes in league football this season. He is getting comfortable now and deciding matches on his own with sublime play in the final third. With Alexis Mac Allister soon to depart, Enciso is placed perfectly to take up the mantle of Brighton’s creator, and scorer-in-chief. Don’t be surprised if another club is splashing Brighton’s record fee on him.
Such is the confidence of young players in Brighton’s recruitment structure and coaching that they are able to beat clubs like Liverpool for youth players’ signatures.
Evan Ferguson made just four competitive appearances for Bohemians in Ireland before catching the eyes of Liverpool and Brighton. Seeing a better pathway into the first team, Ferguson opted for Brighton. What a choice it has turned out to be.
After spending half a season in Brighton’s youth teams, Ferguson made his debut in August 2021. He had his taste of senior football, now he wanted more. Brighton were patient with him. Ferguson became an established senior team member at the start of the 2022/23 season and exploded onto the scene like he was born to play at this level.
Now capped by Ireland, armed with a new contract till 2028 and banging in the goals at just 18 years of age, Ferguson is primed to have a legendary career. Big sharks are already circling, and Brighton’s scouting system is guaranteed to give the club another heft profit.