De Zerbi's thrown in the towel on Caicedo.


Brighton’s Roberto De Zerbi is starting to sound a bit like a manager who’s seen the last of his player. With Caicedo frozen out of the squad, similar to how ex-teaammate Leandro Trossard was frozne out, De Zerbi has spoken about how it’s time to “go forward without him”. It was just a few days ago that De Zerbi said that Caicedo is “only focused on Brighton. I hope he can stay with us until the end of the season”. Happier times on the southern shore. Those were the days. De Zerbi’s more-recent words seem to insinuate that a parting of ways is inevitable, and the only question is whether happens in the next few days or in the summer.

Let me admit that I have mixed feelings here. I like Brighton. I want them to do well. I’m disappointed that Potter was lured away. We did good business for Ben White. I’m fine with having taken Trossard off their hands because De Zerbi had essentially cut him loose. With Caicedo, though, it feels different. Caicedo has acted a bit mercenary (more on that in a minute), and we’ve been the bullies here. Brighton currently come off as David fending off not just one but two Goliaths, with Chelsea (but of course) sniffing around. For as irritating as it was over the years having to put with Barcelona treating us as a feeder club, it does start to feel like the shoe’s on the other foot here. 

First, though, back to De Zerbi throwing in that towel. Here are his most-recent comments on the situation:

I would like him to finish the season with us but we are ready to go forward without him. When you are 21 and you receive the request of a big team that is playing in European competition, I can understand.

Those are hardly the words of a manager confident of keeping the lad in the club. I suggested earlier that Caicedo was being a bit mercenary. It’s worth considering his situation, not as a justification of our pursuit of him but as a understanding of his concerns. He’s the youngest of ten children from an impoverished family in Ecuador. While his weekly salary of £25k or so is probably more than most families see in a year, he has to be seeing just how much more he can do for his family on a larger weekly wage. Again, I’m not suggesting that we’re acting as some kind of noble benefactor interested only in the wellbeing of the Caicedo clan; I’m only suggesting that those who might criticise the lad should keep in mind what’s on his.

Back to Brighton’s state of affairs, De Zerbi added a few nuggets that offer us more reasons to hope:

I think we need some players in some positions. I have spoken a lot with [chairman] Tony Bloom and he knows my position. We have a good team but we can improve from the transfer window. We lost Leandro Trossard, and if we lose also Caicedo it can be a problem for us if we want to fight for a European league or the maximum position on the table. If you want to stay like this, we can stay but I don’t like that [approach].

This again sounds like a man who sees the writing on the wall regarding Caicedo’s future, and it gives some substance to Caicedo’s admittedly tone-deaf declaration that he’d be “proud to be able to bring in a record transfer fee for Brighton”. There’s a bit of hubris there, but there’s also some practicality as well. If De Zerbi wants new players, a £75 fee (plus add-ons) would go an awful long way—but time is running short. 

The question then becomes, who will blink first?

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