Brighton and Hove Albion are as confident as they can be when the transfer window opens that World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister will still be a player at the end of January.
Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United are reportedly interested in the Argentina midfielder, who flew to England on Monday.
He could feature in Tuesday night’s trip to Everton if manager Roberto De Zerbi decides he is available.
Speculation is that the 24-year-old has put his future on hold during the holiday given by Brighton to celebrate in Buenos Aires and to return home to Santa Rosa after Argentina’s victory in Qatar.
Mac Allister was given two weeks’ leave. He wasn’t due to return until Saturday’s FA Cup third-round tie with Middlesbrough, but he’s coming back soon, such is his desire to resume playing at Brighton and to get used to his teammates.
Brighton will be delighted to have him back. He was sorely missed, along with fellow midfielder Moises Caicedo, in Saturday night’s 4-2 defeat to Arsenal.
The club are not surprised by the extent of the reported interest in Mac Allister, but they doubt the reliability of those reports and the possibility that many of them are driven by agents jumping on the bandwagon.
They are used to the ‘noise’ around their star names – Caicedo, Leandro Trossard, Robert Sanchez and now Mac Allister after benefiting from the biggest international stage.
They don’t treat anyone seriously unless they have direct contact with the club. At the time of writing, there was no such connection with Mac Allister or anyone else.
It is not thought that the new contract, which was carefully negotiated by Mac Allister and his team representatives four weeks before the World Cup, will be canceled until June 2025 with an additional year at Brighton’s option.
Effectively putting a price on a player’s head is not how they consistently conduct their business.
Argentina’s victory in Qatar and Mac Allister playing an important role in it took his value to another level. Even if a team or club does emerge, it would take an eye-watering offer – more than what he would attract in the summer – for Brighton to even consider losing him for half a season rich in promise to De Zerbi’s club. , with little time to sign a suitable replacement.
Brighton’s reputation for playing hardball was firmly in place when Manchester City made what was seen as an insult by owner-chairman Tony Bloom and his executive team with their £30m bid for Marc Cucurella in the summer.
The Spanish defender was sold to Chelsea for a fee of 60 million pounds.
What is the World Cup winner’s fee? It’s hard to imagine. There is no specific formula, but Brighton considers many factors.
Cucurella did not make Spain’s World Cup squad. Mac Allister is not only a World Cup winner but he played a prominent role in Argentina’s opening game against Lionel Scaloni in their surprise 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia.
He started the remaining six games of Argentina’s road to victory. He scored a goal for his team for the first time in the group stage game they won against Poland and advanced to the round of 16.
His performance culminated in the final against France as he assisted Argentina’s memorable second goal, scored by Angel Di Maria, and a superb all-round performance. Only six members of Scaloni’s Qatar squad have played more games than Mac Allister, who has amassed 550 minutes.
Another factor in assessing its value to suitors is its range. Scaloni used Argentina as a more advanced midfielder, often coming in from the left to link up with Messi.
Since making his debut in 86 games, including 13 goals, at Brighton in March 2020, he has played in various midfield positions.
Both under Graham Potter and now De Zerbi this season, Mac Allister has formed an excellent square in the center of the park alongside Ecuador international Caicedo.
Arsenal were lucky in that sense, facing Brighton when both players were sidelined following a fifth yellow card of the season and a one-match ban for Caicedo in the last round at Southampton on Boxing Day.
Pascal Gross and Billy Gilmour, in his first league game with the team, tried their best to hide the gap. They don’t have the same chemistry or the combination of easy passing, passing and running that the South American pair offer, although De Zerbi has understandably played down their absence.
“It wouldn’t be right for me to talk about (missing) Mac Allister and Caicedo,” he said. “People know their quality, but Gilmour played a fantastic game and Pascal is the same.”
Mac Allister’s humility, longevity at Brighton and his deep appreciation for the way the team has developed are other factors that set him apart from the circumstances surrounding the sale of Cucurella, who quickly became interested elsewhere after one season. .
Knowing his characteristics, Brighton do not expect Mac Allister to make a move.
All the club’s big sales were made during the summer window when there was more time to plan – Cucurella, Yves Bissouma to Tottenham, Ben White to Arsenal.
They can never say, but there is every chance that they, his teammates and fans will enjoy the technical gifts of the world cup winner at least for the rest of the season.
(Top photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)