From Vicarage Road to the Seagulls’ Nest: Joao Pedro’s £30 million move to Brighton & Hove Albion

Svar Jain
By Svar Jain
10 Min Read

Brighton & Hove Albion have a deal in place to sign Watford forward Joao Pedro for £30 million. All elements of the deal have been agreed, though it is not yet signed and cannot be officially concluded until the summer transfer window opens in June. The proposed arrival of Joao Pedro, 21, is expected to be a club-record fee for Brighton, surpassing the £20 million paid to Bristol City for Adam Webster in 2019. Pedro has 11 goals and four assists this season for Watford in the Championship.

The Transfer Saga

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AC Milan were also interested in Joao Pedro, but the Serie A club’s spending cap may have precluded them from signing him due to the length of his Watford contract, which runs until 2028. Watford extended his contract despite their relegation from the Premier League at the end of the previous season. This raised his value and ensured that the Hertfordshire club would only consider selling the precocious youngster for more than Newcastle’s first £30 million deal. Joao Pedro has made 109 appearances and scored 24 goals for Watford since signing from Brazilian club Fluminense in 2020. He is capable of playing a variety of forward positions, most usually from the left wing, in front of the striker, or as a centre forward.

“I don’t know Joao Pedro!” Brighton head coach Roberto De Zerbi joked when asked about the potential trade on Friday. “Joao Pedro is a very, very important player, but I’m not sure. He is a superb athlete. We are a very good team, and while we have room for improvement, now is not the appropriate time to discuss the transfer market.”

Joao Pedro missed Watford’s 2-2 draw against Sunderland in the season’s last Championship match, while Brighton defeated Wolves 6-0 at the Amex Stadium. This is due to an agreement that will make the Brazilian striker Brighton’s record acquisition for £30 million ($37.7 million) when the transfer market opens in June. They are also getting ready to make an effort to recruit free agency midfielder James Milner, 37, of Liverpool this summer.

Player report

Joao Pedro has traits that would make him a more traditional No 10 or a fake No 9. His dribbling, precise control, and ball-carrying skills are his main advantages. He will expand on Welbeck, Evan Ferguson, Julio Enciso, and Deniz Undav as De Zerbi’s current options. Ferguson missed Wednesday’s 3-1 loss at Nottingham Forest and last Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal loss to Manchester United on penalties at Wembley due to an ankle ailment. Thus, he was ruled out for the third straight game against the Wolves. Ferguson’s comeback is imminent. Nevertheless, with hopes of European football next year, Brighton needs to reinforce their squad, and Joao Pedro fills the blank that Roberto De Zerbi wants as an attacking talisman.

The Brighton story

The slogan at Brighton & Hove Albion was to make sure they were “Premier League-ready” before they ever got there as they were trying to return to the top flight of English football for the first time since 1983. Following their promotion in 2017, they now appear to be a team that is prepared for the Champions League or Europa League or, in the event of failure, the Europa Conference League.

These actions serve as signs of purpose. They don’t want the struggle to earn a spot in Europe to be a one-off before they fall further behind. After two seasons of survival under Chris Hughton, with finishes of 15th and 17th, Graham Potter’s appointment as manager of Brighton in May 2019 changed the club’s focus to establishing themselves as a top-10 team. Although the team’s playing style improved, they still finished 15th and 16th in Potter’s first two seasons. Before Potter left for Chelsea in September of last year, the team made a big jump to ninth, and that jump has been followed by another under Roberto De Zerbi.

Squad depth

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De Zerbi thought that his team would be anxious to atone for the 120 minutes of agonizing misery they endured at Wembley. Therefore, he only made two outfield changes to the lineup at Forest. He made five changes against the Wolves because some of them at Forest appeared exhausted in the second half. Three of the season’s top performances, winger Kaoru Mitoma, midfielders Moises Caicedo and Alexis MacAllister, and midfielder Alexis MacAllister, were benched, starting with the first. Brighton began a league match without all three players for the first time this year. The resounding affirmation served as proof of the depth that already exists. When given the opportunity to start with Gross, Billy Gilmour took advantage of it while Caicedo and Mac Allister were given a break. Gilmour was referred to be “the best player on the pitch” by De Zerbi.

Undav, Welbeck, and the reliable Gross all scored twice. Enciso, a Paraguayan teenager, moved to Mitoma’s left-side position and assisted both of Gross’ goals, becoming him the youngest South American to do so in a Premier League match. Undav’s two goals were especially noteworthy since they were the German’s first league goals in 15 appearances since he scored 27 goals in 41 games for Union Saint-Gilloise of Belgium’s top division last year.

They De-Zerb it!

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The Italian is on track to bring Europe to the team for the first time and atone for his close call with Sassuolo in Serie A in 2021 when they lost out to Roma, who went on to win the tournament on goal differential for a spot in the Europa Conference. Over the course of his first seven months in charge at the Amex Stadium, De Zerbi frequently brought up mentality. He doesn’t want the events in Sassuolo’s past to occur again. On Saturday, he brought up the matter once more, praising his team’s ruthlessness in increasing their score against Wolves after going up 3-0 in the first 26 minutes.

In addition to Liverpool, Brighton is up against Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa for a spot in the top five. However, Brighton has a significant goal difference edge over these two sides. De Zerbi stated, “If we are winning 3-0, we haven’t changed anything in our head, and we have to push again, again, again because this is the step that’s most important — mentality.”

The fascination with Milner stems in part from his relentless desire. He would be an addition to De Zerbi’s squad’s core of seasoned professionals who set high standards. Adam Lallana, a former teammate of Milner’s at Liverpool, Danny Welbeck, and Joel Veltman, a representative of the Netherlands, are already in that group. They all have extensive knowledge of Europe. Despite the fact that Solly March, Pascal Gross, and team captain Lewis Dunk have never played in Europe, they serve as outstanding role models for the younger players on the team. At the age of 21, Joao Pedro fits into that description. He is an additional potential of the caliber that Brighton is becoming adept at cultivating.

Brighton is demonstrating why their rightful place is in Europe.

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