Why Chelsea are raiding Brighton for top transfer talent in bid to copy Man City empire


Graham Potter is just one symbol of a growing relationship between Chelsea and Brighton.

The head coach returns to his former club tomorrow, seven weeks after departing the Amex to take over at Stamford Bridge. Potter left Brighton on good terms and should get a warm reception.

Brighton did not want to lose the 47-year-old but Chelsea paid £20million in compensation to prise him from the south coast, a world-record sum for a manager.

The move for Potter came after new Chelsea co-owner Todd Boehly had already built a good relationship with Brighton at Premier League meetings following his takeover.

Boehly showed good knowledge of how the Seagulls operate, charming their owner, Tony Bloom, and key directors. He has also held private meetings with members of Brighton staff to pick their brains as he finds his feet in the football business.

Chelsea boss Graham Potter returns to former club Brighton in the Premier League this weekend (REUTERS)
Chelsea boss Graham Potter returns to former club Brighton in the Premier League this weekend (REUTERS)

Chelsea were able to succeed where Manchester City failed, by thrashing out a complicated deal with Brighton to sign Marc Cucurella for £62m in the summer, with Levi Colwill moving the other way on loan. The Blues also sold Scotland international Billy Gilmour to Brighton for less than £10m.

Recruitment analyst Kyle Macaulay joined Potter from Brighton and Chelsea are aiming to make another raid on the Seagulls by adding their head of recruitment Paul Winstanley to a new-look transfer ‘think tank’ to oversee player recruitment. Brighton have given Winstanley permission to speak to Chelsea, who have this week appointed Joe Shields and Laurence Stewart to senior positions in their football operation.

When Potter was appointed, Chelsea allowed him to bring more staff with him than any manager since Maurizio Sarri in 2018. All of them came from Brighton.

In addition, there was also a hastily-arranged behind-closed-doors friendly between the clubs when football was postponed because of the Queen’s death.

In some ways, Chelsea want to be more like Brighton, who have excelled in recruitment and football business.

They have one of English football’s most sophisticated scouting networks, helping them to identify the best talent and find players the ‘big six’ do not typically sign. “We have to be smarter in the market,” Brighton CEO Paul Barber told Standard Sport this year.

“We are never going to compete against the top six or many in Europe for the players we want. We have to take risks sometimes. Rather than finding the finished article, like some of the biggest clubs can afford to do, we have to find that talent earlier before they get close to them.”

Chelsea can already buy whoever they want, but they will need to become more sophisticated as they plan to create a multi-club model to emulate Manchester City’s City Football Group and Brighton themselves, who have a connection with Belgian side Union Saint-Gilloise.

The Blues feel they did well in the transfer market in the summer by spending a record £273m on new signings, but they cannot deny they performed poorly on player sales.

Chelsea’s existing relationship with tomorrow’s opponents might also be useful in luring more top talent from them in the future, so they might not want to celebrate too hard if they take all three points at the Amex.