Brighton's stunning £8m swoop will come back to haunt Chelsea & Man City

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Brighton are on the cusp of signing yet another impressive young player - but when will clubs like Chelsea learn from the Seagulls?

Jealousy is a terrible thing. Over the last couple of years, it’s been clear that Chelsea have cast several green-eyed glances down towards the south coast and have allowed their envy to encourage them to make a number of questionable decisions in the transfer market – repeatedly spending big bucks on players that Brighton & Hove Albion had bought for a much lower price not long before. But if jealousy is a bad influence on the running of a football club, the failure to learn from ones mistakes is surely worse, and yet again Chelsea have missed out on the chance to buy a supremely talented youngster before Brighton. This time, it’s Boca Juniors’ Valentín Barco.

Reports suggest that the 19-year-old left-back will undergo a medical in the coming days in Argentina, where is currently training with the national Under-23 squad ahead of an Olympic qualifying tournament. Brighton will be the buyers for another big South American talent, again at a knock-down price – they are paying his release clause, which is believed to stand at $10m (£7.8m). You dread to think what kind of sum Chelsea will buy him for down the line.

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And Chelsea were one of the clubs scouting him, according to numerous reports, not that they were alone in considering a bid for one of the most sought-after young talents in world football. Manchester City were certainly in the market, too, and it may remain a mystery why neither came in for Barco when his release clause was so small, at least when compared to the kind of fees two of English football’s biggest spenders are used to spending.

Perhaps Chelsea and City know something the rest of us don’t – RB Leipzig and Barcelona were also reported to be looking into a deal, if further character references are required – but on the face of it this represents another remarkable piece of business by Brighton, who are cementing their reputation as the English answer to Borussia Dortmund. The brightest young players in the game now see Brighton as the perfect place to hone their game, a place where they know the coaching will be outstanding and that they will get a fair amount of first-team minutes. Meanwhile, the cash continues to flow into the Amex Stadium as the Seagulls sell their assets at a massive mark-up.

Barco will provide some stern competition for Pervis Estupiñán at left-back, and vital cover for when he is unavailable, as has been the case for extended periods this season. Like the Ecuadorian – another fine piece of work in the transfer market in his own right, of course – Barco is an aggressive wing-back who likes to get quickly down the field to support attacks and who has the off-ball movement and quality of delivery and eye for a final pass to make a significant impact.

He's also more than handy at the back, and unlike many more attack-minded wing-backs he sticks to his defensive duties with diligence and good judgement. He’s tough to beat for pace, his positioning is impressive for such a young player, and while he does tend to lunge into tackles given half a sniff of the ball, he has the knack for timing them well enough to avoid giving away too many needless free-kicks.

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The only real strike against Barco is his physique – a slightly straggly youth who stands at just 5’6” tall, Barco won’t beat anybody in the air and who could risk being bullied by sturdier opposing forwards. He isn’t remarkably fast, either, and he’ll need to develop his judgement in the tackle even further still in the top flight as some of the quicker wingers will definitely have half a yard on him in a foot race. He will, at least, have plenty of time to hone his skills with the Seagulls, as he is supposedly set to sign a deal that will last up to five-and-a-half years, with the last year being a club option of a one-year extension.

Perhaps size and speed explain the reticence of City and Chelsea but given that the Blues in particular have a bit of an issue at left-back with Ben Chilwell and Marc Cucrella both out injured, it’s hard to come up with too many good reasons for him to be excluded. City, at least, can point out that the presence of Joško Gvardiol, Rico Lewis and Nathan Aké mean that they have the position pretty well covered. Chelsea have few excuses, though, given that they have spend several times Barco’s fee on a number of other defensive transfers, not all of which have panned out thus far. In blowing the bank on the first shiny objects that swam across their vision, perhaps they have missed out on a player who could easily prove to be better.

A lot of good judges of potential in the scouting world see Barco as one of the best young full-backs in the business, even after just 23 senior appearances for Boca and 19 for Argentina at various age-group levels. There is widespread belief that he will go a very long way. Perhaps Chelsea’s scouts disagree, but then they would be swimming against the tide, and given his price it’s strange that they wouldn’t take a chance on his talent. Brighton are unlikely to register many complaints, especially given the odds that they make a colossal profit down the line – probably from Chelsea, if history is any guide.

Will the decision to allow Barco to join Brighton without putting up a fight look like a mistake in a few years’ time? We’ll have to wait to know for sure, but as it stands all the signs are pointing to Brighton having bought a very exciting and deeply talented player. And if he does turn out to be a bust? Well, they’ve only spent a fraction of the money that they earned for sending Moisés Caicedo, Robert Sánchez and Cucurella over to Stamford Bridge. They probably won’t feel to frustrated if one of their signings doesn’t pan out for once. Chelsea, on the other hand, could look very foolish indeed in the not-so-distant future. Perhaps one day, they'll work out that the best buys don't necessarily come with the biggest price tags.

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