Brighton head coach Roberto De Zerbi says the club are “ready to go forward without” Moises Caicedo amid strong interest from Arsenal.
The Gunners had a £60m offer for Caicedo rejected by Brighton, which prompted the Colombia international to plead with Brighton to let him leave and join the Premier League leaders in a statement on social media.
Caicedo was told to stay away from training with the Seagulls until after Tuesday’s transfer deadline as a result of the post in which he said he would be “proud to be able to bring in a record transfer fee for Brighton”.
De Zerbi insists Caicedo is a “very good guy” and hopes to keep the 21-year-old beyond Tuesday’s transfer deadline as Arsenal consider making a fresh approach for the midfielder.
“I would like him to finish the season with us but we are ready to go forward without him,” said De Zerbi after Sunday’s last-gasp FA Cup fourth-round win over Liverpool.
“When you are 21 and you receive the request of a big team that is playing in the European competition, I can understand.”
Asked if he was surprised by Caicedo’s social media post, De Zerbi added: Yes, yes I was. I’m not sure if it was him if you know what I mean…”
Pressed on if he thought Caicedo had been influenced by others, De Zerbi said: “Yes, I think so.”
De Zerbi wants Brighton signings in January
Brighton have already sold Trossard to Arsenal this month after the winger forced a move to north London and De Zerbi has made it clear he wants reinforcements in January if Caicedo departs.
“I think we need some players in some positions,” he added. “I have spoken a lot with [chairman] Tony Bloom and he knows my position. We have a good team but we can improve from the transfer window.
“We lost Leandro Trossard, and if we lose also Caicedo it can be a problem for us if we want to fight for a European league or the maximum position on the table. If you want to stay like this, we can stay but I don don’t like that [approach].”
Brighton’s stance after Caicedo’s instagram post
Sky Sports News has been told Brighton have made it clear to Arsenal that Caicedo is categorically not for sale.
Brighton have also told Caicedo privately that he will not be leaving in January.
The club appreciate Caicedo’s head has been turned by the interest and have given the midfielder a few days away to get his head right for the remainder of the season after saying he wanted to leave on social media.
Caicedo’s Instagram post read: “I am grateful to Mr Bloom and Brighton for giving me the chance to come to the Premier League and I feel I have always done my best for them. I always play football with a smile and with heart.
“I am the youngest of 10 siblings from a poor upbringing in Santa Domingo in Ecuador. My dream always to be the most decorated player in the history of Ecuador.
“I am proud to be able to bring in a record transfer fee for Brighton which would allow them to reinvest it and help the club continue to be successful.
“The fans have taken me into their hearts and they will always be in my heart so I hope they can understand why I want to take up this magnificent opportunity.”
Caicedo said on Brighton’s official website earlier this week that he was focused solely on his current club.
Trossard has already swapped Brighton for Arsenal in the current window in a deal worth a £27m, but Brighton are determined to keep hold of Caicedo.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta refused to comment on the midfielder when asked about him after Friday night’s 1-0 defeat at Manchester City in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Arteta said: “You know that I’m not going to comment on any players until anything is done and I will continue like that, sorry.
“As I said before we’ve been pretty active in the market. We have some necessities and if something is available the club is willing to try to do it, when it’s reasonable and hopefully it’s a player who can improve our squad.”