Roberto De Zerbi spoke to Moises Caicedo “like a father” to advise him on his future amid continued transfer interest from Arsenal.
The PA news agency understands the 21-year-old midfielder has been the subject of an opening offer in the region of £60million from the Gunners as they seek to tempt Brighton into a deal before Tuesday’s transfer deadline.
Brighton are steadfast in their commitment to keeping Caicedo at least until the end of the season, with Premier League leaders Arsenal considering whether to return with an improved bid.
De Zerbi believes it is his duty as head coach to ensure that Caicedo, also a reported target for Chelsea, is advised in such a way that the player’s own best interests are served as well as those of the club.
“He’s a good guy,” said De Zerbi. “He’s focused only on Brighton. I hope he can stay with us until the end of the season because in my opinion, it’s the best solution for him, for us.
“I spoke with him Wednesday and I told him my opinion. I think it’s always difficult to change (during) a season. Because you can find problems. For our way, it’s important for him to stay another four months with us.
“He is relaxed. He’s a good guy. I spoke with him like a father, not like a coach. Because I understand when one player has the possibility to change team and go to a very big team. I understand. My work is to give the style of play, but to give also advice for his career, his life.”
Brighton’s players have been the subject of intense transfer interest during January, with stand-out performances from a host of the team’s young stars catching the eye of bigger clubs.
World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister is another player to be linked with a move away following his performances for Argentina in Qatar last year, while Solly March’s streak of good form, which included a brace in the 3-0 win against Liverpool earlier in January, has thrust him into the spotlight.
The Seagulls face Jurgen Klopp’s side in a repeat of that fixture – which the Reds manager called his team’s “worst-ever performance” – in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday, but De Zerbi does not expect it to be a last hurrah at the Amex Stadium for any of his sought-after squad.
“I don’t expect anything,” said De Zerbi. “I’m used to speaking about the transfer market. If we stay like this, I’m happy.
“I feel good today and next Friday, because it’s not my problem, the transfer window. I have to repeat what I feel about the transfer market. The problem is never when you sell; the problem is who you want to buy. You can improve also if one big player leaves. We are not to be afraid.
“We have to know the politics of our club. We have to know the level of Brighton. I hope together we want to grow up. But it’s not my first job, the transfer market.
“To receive requests about our players is a good thing, because (it means) you are working in a good way, in the right way.
“I can understand the other big teams want our young players; Mac Allister, Caicedo, (Kaoru) Mitoma, Solly March. But the decision is for the players and for the club.”