Moises Caicedo is destined to play Champions League football at some point in his career.
And while most people would assume it will require a big-money from the AMEX Stadium for the midfielder to achieve that dream, Caicedo is instead aiming to help Brighton into the top four this season after penning a new long-term contract with the Seagulls.
The deal running through until 2027 came somewhat out of the blue. Just four weeks earlier, Caicedo’s agent had posted a statement on the player’s Instagram account asking for a transfer to Arsenal to be sanctioned in the wake of a £70m bid from the Gunners.
Brighton though had no interest in selling and told Caicedo to take time off until the winter transfer window shut.
Caicedo has since been integrated back into the first team squad by Roberto De Zerbi. There has been no noticeable drop off in performance levels from the midfielder since having his head turned by the Premier League leaders; if anything, Caicedo has been even better than he was prior to all the January drama.
Brighton’s 4-0 win over West Ham at the weekend was a case in point. Not for the first time, Caicedo did a number on Declan Rice that made the Hammers captain anonymous. It was arguably Caicedo’s best 90 minutes of the season, a masterclass in how to not only stifle an opponent’s most dangerous player but also contribute to building attacks for your own team. Watch the way Caicedo turns over possession and gets the Albion on the front foot while protecting the back four and one understands why Tony Bloom dismissed £70m without a second thought.
Bloom is certain to have even bigger offers for Caicedo to consider in the summer, regardless of the ink barely being dry on the Ecuadorian’s new contract. Keeping Caicedo and the likes of Alexis Mac Allister and Kaoru Mitoma will be easier if the Albion can offer European football in 2023/24. Caicedo believes it’s something this Brighton squad can achieve – and not just the via the Europa Conference or Europa League.
Speaking after the win over West Ham, Caicedo told The Argus: “We are trying to get into the Champions League. That is the dream of all the team, to get to the highest point possible and bring happiness to the fans, who are always supporting us.
“That will be very difficult but we are very convinced we can do it all together, just as we are now. Keep it going until the end and we are sure we will do it.”
Brighton currently sit eighth in the Premier League, seven points behind Spurs in fourth but with three games in hand. The Seagulls have played two matches fewer than Liverpool and Fulham above them and one fewer than Newcastle with a crucial trip to St James’ Park to be rearranged due to the Toon Army’s run to the Carabao Cup final.
It will be a hectic end to the season for Brighton, whose home fixture with Manchester United – originally scheduled for FA Cup quarter final weekend – also needs a new date with both sides still in the competition.
The Seagulls are set to host Manchester City on semi final weekend, another match which now seems unlikely to take place when currently scheduled for.
Brighton have proven they can beat any team in the country on their day. The biggest barrier between the Albion and the top four looks likely to be fixture congestion. Tiredness and one or two injuries or suspensions would leave De Zerbi relying on hugely talented but unproven youngsters like Facundo Buonanotte, Julio Enciso and Jeremy Sarmiento at the business end of the campaign.
Caicedo was of course in that boat last season, only making his Premier League debut in April away at Arsenal. Brighton arrived at the Emirates having lost six and drawn one of their previous seven matches, scoring only once.
Caicedo’s elevation to the starting XI resulted in a 2-1 win over the Gunners. His impact over the past year is born out by the numbers; of the 30 Premier League games Caicedo has played, Brighton have won 16 and lost only eight.
As for that new contract, Caicedo said: “I’m focused here on the club which opened the doors. I am very happy to be here and really pleased. It wasn’t a hard decision. If it had been a hard decision, I wouldn’t have signed. I’m happy with everything at the club – with my colleagues, everything and that’s why I signed now.”
He will be even happier if the next step in the rise of Brighton is Wednesday nights against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich next season.