Ben White future at Brighton despite ongoing Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham interest
Sam Cox: Brighton and Hove Albion may have a fight on their hands this summer when it comes to maintaining the services of Ben White.
The 23-year-old has attracted potential suitors from major clubs in England and abroad following a string of impressive performances for the Seagulls this season.
It was apparent last season that Albion had a serious talent within their ranks as he played an instrumental role in Leeds United’s promotion to the Premier League while on loan with the Yorkshire club.
After standing firm last summer to keep him away from Elland Road on a permanent deal, Graham Potter has furthered his game and has prompted significant development within the defender.
White epitomises the exceptional work that the Albion academy does. He followed in the footsteps of defensive partner Lewis Dunk by graduating from the academy that he joined at 16-years-old.
What makes Whites journey to the Premier League even more impressive is that he was released by fellow south coast club Southampton prior to joining the Seagulls. Even at such a young age, White never lost his focus or desire to make it to the very top.
In what was a comfortable afternoon for the Albion defence, White showed the Saints what they were missing in the recent 2-1 away victory at St Mary’s Stadium. The former Saint produced three clearances and two successful diagonal passes as goals from Dunk and Leandro Trossard secured a vital three points.
In Sunday’s contentious defeat against Manchester United, he also showed he’s comfortable playing against the very best. At Old Trafford, he recorded two tackles, interceptions and clearances respectively as Albion pushed the Red Devils all the way before Mason Greenwood headed home late in the day.
What may work in Albion’s favour is the fact many top clubs in this country aren’t desperate for defenders as they were 12 months ago. Manchester City have unearthed another, expensive, gem in Ruben Dias who has transformed them back into title winners.
Their city rivals seem content with the partnership of Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof, while Liverpool invested in their centre-back department in January with the signings of Ben Davies and Ozan Kabak.
Other potential destinations for the 23-year-old could be Arsenal and Tottenham. However, both north London clubs seem to be stuttering this season and may not be the attractive destinations they once were.
As a result, the best option for White could be remaining at the AMEX. Despite continually performing with the maturity of someone who’s played in the Premier League for years, it’s easy to forget how young he is - while this season is his first in the top-flight.
From the club’s point of view, it’s imperative that they keep hold of him. He’s been instrumental in the team that’s pulled itself away from the relegation zone while forming a formidable partnership with Dunk. It’s clear that he’s only going to get better, thus increasing the potential transfer fee the club would receive.
It’s also not out of the question that he could sneak into Gareth Southgate’s 2020 European Championship squad, either. How he’s not yet been called into any Three Lions squad is baffling, but his versatility may prove key- if not this summer’s tournament then for major competitions in the future.
What Graham Potter has been able to utilise this season is his ability to also play in midfield. Much like the current national team boss, the former Swansea City manager switches between a back three and a back four and with White’s ability to perform well in either, he will become a useful asset at national team level.
It’s no secret that the finances of football clubs in England have been seriously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, those interested in the services of White may not have the capability to match the fee Albion will demand.
If White’s head gets turned, he needs to look no further than at current teammate Adam Lallana who stayed at Southampton for one more season in the Premier League before his move to Liverpool in 2014.
Taking everything into consideration, the best place for White’s development is at Albion for at least one more season before moving further up the Premier League ladder.