Brighton and Hove Albion manager Roberto De Zerbi has called on fans to support Moises Caicedo, despite his late transfer request ahead of the January deadline.
The Seagulls received bids from both Chelsea and Arsenal as speculation surrounded the Ecuadorian, but ultimately they refused to sell him.
The Italian coach added that he still ‘loves’ Caicedo, as he looks ahead to Brighton’s Premier League clash with Bournemouth on Saturday.
The south coast club have enjoyed a phenomenal start to the season, currently sitting in sixth place – eight points adrift from the top four with a game in hand on Manchester United.
They have won nine of their opening 19 matches, with Caicedo’s performances being key to their success.
So far this season, the midfielder has featured in all but one of Brighton’s league games, scoring one goal in the process.
His best attributes are in his defensive abilities though. The 21-year-old ranks in the top 5% of all players in the division for tackles in the oppositions half, as well as making the second-most fouls.
Caicedo also ranks among the best in terms of pass completion. Given this it is unsurprising there has been so much interest in him.
As mentioned, Chelsea tabled a £55m offer for the midfielder, while Arsenal improved on that with their own bid of £70m.
However, De Zerbi decided he was too important to lose, despite the hefty offers.
De Zerbi ‘happy’ Caicedo stayed; calls on fans for support
Caicedo also posted a controversial social media post, calling on Brighton to allow him to fulfil his ‘dream of becoming Ecuador’s most decorated player,’ by letting him join Chelsea or Arsenal.
This speculation angered a lot of Seagulls fans and understandably so, but De Zerbi has now called on fans to support Caicedo, suggesting there is no bad blood between him and his player.
In a press conference on Friday, he said: “I am happy that Moises [Caicedo] has stayed with us. I want to speak to our fans to support him. I love Moises. Everyone in the club loves him and I want the fans to follow me.”
Indeed, if Brighton want to have any chance of maintaining their spot in the top six, or perhaps even break into the top four, Caicedo will have to keep up his excellent performances.
The midfielder’s current deal is due to expire in 2025, so the Seagulls are under no pressure to sell their star man, even at the end of the season.
However, given he has publicly voiced his desire to move on, there is a good chance Chelsea and Arsenal could try and sign him again.
Liverpool and Manchester United have also expressed an interest in Caicedo in the past, so there could end up being a bidding war for him in the summer.