Soccer-Brighton will struggle to keep top talent says De Zerbi

Soccer Football - Premier League - Aston Villa v Brighton & Hove Albion - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 28, 2023 Brighton & Hove Albion manager Roberto De Zerbi reacts as Aston Villa manager Unai Emery looks on REUTERS/Ed Sykes

BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) - Brighton & Hove Albion are resigned to losing two of their leading players in the close season despite the club's best-ever top-flight campaign in which they finished sixth to qualify for the Europa League and their first ever European campaign.

Manager Roberto de Zerbi said Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo, their two outstanding midfield performers this season, are likely to leave and added the club's policy of unearthing young talent for the first team is the core to their ethos.

"They (the two players) deserve to change the level of team and competition, we have to be happy for them," De Zerbi said after Brighton’s final day 2-1 loss at Aston Villa on Sunday.

"We are Brighton and our policy is to help the young players to progress, we can't keep our best players. That is right, it is our mentality and we have to find more young players.

"It is incredible for us to be in the Europa League, but we deserve it. Now we analyse the squad, we have to improve and build a stronger squad with more players."

Argentina World Cup-winner Mac Allister, 24, played the full 90 minutes at Villa in what was likely his final game for the club, while 21-year-old Ecuador international Caicedo was introduced at halftime.

The latter was the subject of two transfer bids from Arsenal in January that were turned down by Brighton. He asked to leave, but then signed a new contract until June 2027.

Brighton might have finished the season with a defeat but they were perhaps unfortunate not to come away with something from the game having troubled a Villa side that had won their previous six home games.

"There is disappointment today, it's always bad to lose a game, but the season was fantastic. I am sorry it is over, but we will start stronger next season," De Zerbi said.

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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