A glance at Brighton and Hove Albion’s 25-man first squad shows the diversity and range of their recruitment policy in recent times.
17 different nationalities are represented among Chris Hughton’s ranks, including two Israelis, an Austrian, a Finn and a Romanian.
Their last four managers have hailed from Uruguay, Spain, Finland and now the Republic of Ireland, in the shape of Hughton.
So what makes Brighton one of the smartest clubs when it comes to recruiting?
Lower-league talent spotting
It is not just their scouting system in other nations that has been particularly impressive but also their ability to pick out players from England’s lower divisions who are capable of playing a role in the top flight.
Vice-captain Lewis Dunk is a product of the club’s youth system but Dale Stephens (Charlton) and Sam Baldock (Bristol City) were both plucked from the Football League when Brighton themselves were still in the Championship, with all still fundamental clogs in their team.
Winger Solly March was signed as a 17-year-old after impressive for Non-League Lewes while Northern Ireland international Oliver Norwood was signed from Reading to help propel the Seagulls into the top flight, just as he has done with Fulham this past season.
Shane Duffy, of the Republic of Ireland, was signed from Blackburn following their demotion to League One while his fellow countryman Richie Towell was plucked from Dundalk.
However, the real impressive element of Brighton’s transfer strategy lies in their deals for players who have impressed in top divisions elsewhere yet who are available at relatively affordable prices.
Last summer saw a string of impressive arrivals including Valencia’s backup goalkeeper and Australian international Mathew Ryan, Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge, PSV’s Dutch international Davy Propper, Italian defender Ezequiel Schelotto from Sporting CP and, most impressive of all, playmaker Pascal Groß from Ingolstadt.
Not resting on their laurels, the South Coast side also made an impressive swoop in January for PSV striker Jurgen Locadia. Brighton comfortably finished 15th in their first season back in England’s top flight, seven points clear of the relegation zone.
Early summer start
The blueprint of recruitment has continued in the current transfer window with two further acquisitions to bolster the ranks at the Amex Stadium.
Last summer, Brighton failed with a €20 million bid to sign Deportivo La Coruna striker Florin Andone. A bustling striker with a strong work ethic, his skillset was identified as being readymade for English football but the Spanish club were unwilling to do business.
12 months on, Depor were relegated and a clause in the Romanian international’s contract allowed the Seagulls to swoop for a cut-price €6 million deal.
German-born Nigerian international Leon Balogun has also arrived at the club following on from a three-year stint at Mainz.
The Bundesliga, from which the club signed Groß, has been a key scouted area but incomings from Belgium, Portugal, the Netherlands and Spain suggests the club’s network of scouts are being relied upon.
This model is being carried out within a remit of sensible spending and cautious optimism. The club will not compromise their position or break the bank, with every move viewed as low-risk and optimal reward.
If they can continue to stave off relegation, money will continue to be less of a concern as the club continues to grow.
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