Brighton’s Moises Caicedo playing game of £110 million musical chairs with Liverpool, Chelsea

Moises Caicedo of Brighton & Hove Albion looks on during the Premier League Summer Series match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United at Red Bull Arena on July 28, 2023 in Harrison, New Jersey. Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images for Premier League/AFP (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty

Chelsea and Liverpool have gone to battle in the transfer market for the signature of Brighton’s Moises Caicedo before they face off at Stamford Bridge on the opening weekend of the Premier League season.

The Ecuadorian is set to become the most expensive player in English football history as both clubs see the 21-year-old as integral to their hopes of bouncing back after disappointing seasons.

Liverpool have agreed a £110 million deal with Brighton, but the player is believed to still favour a move to Chelsea.

Chelsea slumped to 12th in the Premier League last season – their lowest finish since 1994 – despite spending over £500 million on new players during the first year of the club’s new ownership.

Chelsea are now looking to throw more money at their issues after a summer clearout left new manager Mauricio Pochettino short of midfield options.

But after they failed to match the asking price during months of negotiations, Liverpool looked to have stolen a march when they were the highest bidders by a deadline imposed by Brighton on Thursday.

Liverpool are also in need of new midfielders after losing captain Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain since the end of last season

Jurgen Klopp’s men missed out on Champions League football for the first time in seven seasons after finishing fifth in the Premier League last season.

And despite the capture of another of Brighton’s stars Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai from RB Leipzig, fans and even the club’s new skipper Virgil van Dijk have grown frustrated with the lack of new arrivals at Anfield.

“Obviously, when a lot of players are leaving, when your captain is leaving, your vice-captain is leaving, and at the moment, there are only two incomings…I can understand some people having doubts,” said Van Dijk.

Liverpool ‘desperate’

After bowing out of the bidding for Jude Bellingham prior to his 100 million euro move from Borussia Dortmund to Real Madrid earlier this year and refusing to meet Southampton’s £50 million asking price for Romeo Lavia, Liverpool’s late swoop for Caicedo was labelled “desperate” by former defender Jamie Carragher.

But Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said the unexpected departures of Henderson and Fabinho to Saudi Arabia had forced the club’s hand.

We are a club with not endless resources,” said Klopp. “Things we didn’t expect, a couple of things, happened in the summer.”

Klopp also had to row back on his previous criticism other clubs spending over £100 million on a single player.

“Everything changed. Do I like it? No. Did I realise I was wrong? Yes,” added the German coach.

“I’m not blaming anyone but it’s just the market. In the end, we as a club have to make sure that, with our resources, we get the best possible player.”

Whoever does not end up landing Caicedo, though, risks falling to close the gap not only to defending champions Manchester City, but Arsenal and Manchester United, who already have their major transfer business done before the season starts.

By contrast, both Chelsea and Liverpool will begin their campaigns on Sunday with gaping holes in their midfield.

So too do Brighton, who must once again rebuild after qualifying for Europe for the first time in the club’s history last season.

“I’ve already forgotten Moises,” said the Seagulls manager Roberto De Zerbi on Friday.

“The big clubs can buy the players but they can’t buy our soul and our spirit.”

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