The mysterious Colombian midfielder Brighton love but are never quite sure what to do with
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Aaron Connolly was the prolific shining light of the Brighton and Hove Albion under-23s and was pushing for first team football.
Graham Potter had just taken charge of Brighton in 2019 and Connolly was a hot-topic for the new head coach. Each time Connolly’s name was raised, Potter was also quick to mention Steven Alzate. “Great how he receives the ball and spots a pass. Very good technically,” said the ex-boss.
Alzate and Connolly were the new poster boys for the Albion academy as the club embarked on a brave new style and era under Potter, which followed the promotion and pragmatism of Chris Hughton. Connolly dazzled briefly, netted a brace against Tottenham on his Premier League debut and was called-up for Ireland – but niggling injuries and an enjoyment of the Brighton nightlife saw him fade away from Potter’s plan. A loan to Middlesbrough and then an odd stint at Serie B’s Venezia failed to do the trick but he’s now with Liam Rosenior at Hull City, where he can hopefully fulfil his undoubted potential.
Alzate, 24, remains part of the Brighton scene – but also he doesn’t. He has made 43 appearances for the Seagulls in the Premier League and scored once, which proved to be a winner at Liverpool in February 2021. He’s delivered moments of class, sometimes been one of the best players on the pitch and then vanish for another month or so. Rarely, if ever, has he had a run of games.
The competition has been fierce as Yves Bissouma, Alexis Mac Allister, Moises Caicedo, Pascal Gross and all too briefly Enock Mwepu were selected ahead of him and last season – after a failed deadline day loan to West Brom collapsed – he went to Standard Liege in Belgium.
The Colombia international performed well in the Pro League and scored three, with five assists from 29 outings. Secretly he must have hoped he did enough to earn another crack at Brighton in the Premier League – especially as Caicedo’s and Mac Allister’s summer exits left a gaping hole in the midfield.
Roberto De Zerbi’s team will also compete in the Europa League this season and Alzate must have thought increased fixtures would improve his chances of game time. Not so. Alazte reportedly impressed De Zerbi in pre-season and featured on the tune-up trip to America and was also named on the bench for the Premier League opener against Luton Town.
Alzate though remained an unused sub. New arrivals James Milner and Mo Dahoud both started and midfielder Billy Gilmour was introduced from the bench. Carlos Baleba from Lille and Ansu Fati of Barcelona have since been added, leaving Alzate once more out of the picture.
Reported interest from Everton and Wolves surfaced throughout the transfer window, while La Liga club Sevilla and Serie A’s Fiorentina were both said to be keen. A move though failed to materialise in time and now Alzate has looked to Turky and Belgium, as their windows close later than the main European leagues.
Turkish side Trabzonspor registered interest but a return to Standard Liege for the season perhaps looks the more likely. Alzate has just one season left on his Brighton contract but despite that, the club reportedly turned down a bid from Liege for a permanent transfer. Instead agreeing to a loan only, with an option to recall in January.
If true, it makes sense as Brighton try to cover their bases in case of injuries but it does leave Alzate’s career in a continued state of limbo. A new contract at Brighton followed by a loan could be a possibility but the deal will have to move fast as the Belgian window closes today – although the Turkish Super Lig window remains open until September 15.
It is one of the harsh realities of football. A hugely talented and likeable player that Brighton want to keep but they just can’t find a spot for him. And neither party can quite figure out what to do.