At a time when it seems little is going well for Brighton, the club’s burgeoning academy is a constant positive.
Albion’s youth set-up achieved one of its main goals in the 2020/21 campaign when 30% of Premier League minutes were taken by players trained in the Seagulls academy. Ben White, who joined Arsenal for £50million last summer, Robert Sanchez, Aaron Connolly and Steven Alzate, among others, have all had their chances in Graham Potter’s starting XI over the past two years.
The Sussex side won the Premier League Under-17 Cup last season and a host of exciting new youngsters are waiting to make the step up to the first team. Academy players such as Ed Turns, Odel Offiah, Intef Tsoungui, all 19, and Marc Leonard, 20, have all made their debuts this season, and recent young additions such as Evan Ferguson, 17, Jeremy Sarmiento, 19, and Andrew Moran, 18, have a lot of potential.
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Manchester United have agreed to sign 18-year-old Brighton midfielder Toby Collyer, who has been hailed as the country’s best defensive midfielder for his age group by former manager Mark Beard, and Zak Sturge, 17, is attracting interest from Bundesliga clubs. All of this points to a healthy youthful setup. In the years to come, how much could all these players be worth?
In what may not seem like a sign of progress, but could just be meeting the reported transfer fee, Newcastle United are believed to be lining up a £20million bid for Albion goalkeeper Robert Sanchez. The sun claims the 24-year-old is the Magpies’ preferred choice to be their number one going forward. It comes after they signed Dan Burn in January and are also looking to bring in Dan Ashworth.
In terms of numbers for the Spaniard, last season he had a save percentage of 71.3 which was better than Jordan Pickford of Everton, Edouard Mendy of Chelsea, Bernd Leno of Arsenal, David de Gea of Manchester United and Kasper Schmeichel of Leicester City, among others.
The 6ft 5in stopper – who went from playing for League One side Rochdale on loan to Brighton first team and was called up to the Spain squad in just over a year – has been rated as one of the Premier League’s top stoppers in the 2020/21 campaign. But this term, it commits some more notable mistakes.
His save percentage right now is actually an improvement of 72.8% – seventh-best in the division. He is sixth in the league in saves made with 82, with 123 shots on target against him.
The 24-year-old played 27 Premier League games last season and kept 10 clean sheets, and this season he has 29 games to his name and he’s kept eight clean sheets. His distribution is still impressive, his shot-stopping even better, but mistakes have crept into his game in recent months, and he’s not the finished article.
Regardless, White’s transfer drew a line in the sand for Brighton. The club were now attracting big money approaches from top sides, and there are also reports of interest in Tariq Lamptey and Yves Bissouma. The two could fetch over £30m, far more than the Seagulls paid for the pair (around £16m combined).
A whopping £50m for White and £20m for Sanchez, who is unlikely to leave; two players brought into the club’s youth roster as teenagers – that’s not a bad deal. While results on the pitch haven’t been going well, Brighton’s academy future is bright.