If there’s one thing Brighton know how to do these days, it’s entertain.
The team of the 2020s is a far cry from the League One dwellers that fans of a certain young vintage can remember.
Where once there was a Dean Hammond, there is a now a Moises Caicedo. Where once there was a Dean Cox, now there’s a Kaoru Mitoma. Where once there was a Tommy Elphick, now there’s a Lewis Dunk.
The evolution of the club is far more intricate than that, but it can also be succinctly surmised by the fact they have just faced Manchester United twice in little more than a week, avenging the FA Cup semi final defeat on Thursday night. It’s a far cry from winless streaks that included losses to Carlisle, Huddersfield, Stockport, MK Dons and Tranmere Rovers in 2008.
That there would one day be a World Cup winner at the club must have been a ludicrous thought all those years ago, but with the South American talent Brighton continue to mop up and thrust in the first team, Alexis Mac Allister probably won’t be the last Seagulls talent to enjoy success on the biggest stage.
The Argentina hero followed the tried and tested path for youngsters at Brighton, starting during the coronavirus pandemic as he began to become more prominent under then manager Graham Potter.
He has since grown and developed into one of the Premier League’s most tenacious and malleable midfielders, showing bite when in front of his defence and his killer eye for goal from distance or at set pieces.
Mac Allister is one of many Brighton players attracting interest ahead of the summer transfer window. 90min understands the 24-year-old is keen to stay in the Premier League and Liverpool are the club best placed to land him.
The early exchanges in midfield between Brighton and Manchester United on Thursday night were filled with Mac Allister in possession, twisting here and jinking there to find room past the high-pressing Bruno Fernandes and Fred. Brighton put together some lightning quick triangles with the ball, with Mac Allister front and centre each time.
It was the kind of performance that makes the interest of a club like Liverpool completely and utterly understandable.
Mac Allister would be a natural fit at Anfield, having proven he can mix up his midfield game between attack and defence to great effect. It’s an area the Reds need to gentrify and fast, though the Seagulls will still demand a pretty penny for one of their in-demand stars.
Brighton were happy to sell Leandro Trossard to Arsenal at the right price but keep Caicedo, showing a player can leave but only once the club’s valuation is satisfield.
Chief executive Paul Barber told Sky Sports on Thursday: “Well, there’s always going to be rumours when we do well and our people do well.
“There’s always going to be bigger clubs playing at a higher level looking to take our best people but all we can do is perform at our highest potential, hopefully get to the highest position we ever have done in the Premier League and we’re confident we can keep our best people here for as long as possible.
“But you can never say anything is guaranteed in football and we’re certainly going to work hard to keep the best people here.”
Brighton evidently understand their current place in football’s food chain; that’s a major part of their recent success. They have built up a number of stars of the future, first under Potter and now Roberto De Zerbi, and the fortunes of those who left make a telling case for current players to stay put.
They won’t be able to keep World Cup winners like Mac Allister on the south coast for the rest of their careers, and if a bid comes in that suits all parties, an exit will be on the cards.
Should he end up being Liverpool’s Jude Bellingham alternative, Jurgen Klopp will have a player ready-made to take the Reds’ pressing game back up to the highest level.
For Brighton, youngsters like Facundo Buonanotte and Julio Enciso are being displayed proudly in their hectic late season run-in, and Thursday’s win over United shows the talent is there in abundance.
Mac Allister might have added a few extra squids to his market value by slamming in the winner from the penalty spot, but that won’t faze Brighton. The succession plan is clear to see and there’ll be someone waiting to fill his spot should he make that next-level move to Liverpool.
On this edition of 90min’s Definitive European Power Rankings, part of the 90min podcast network, Sean Walsh and Jack Gallagher discuss the top 10 teams in Europe after a busy week of football. If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!