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Roberto De Zerbi fears it may be ‘tough’ to keep Joao Pedro at Brighton

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 29 Dec 2023

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Roberto De Zerbi saluted Joao Pedro after his two-goal display against Tottenham, but admitted he fears the forward’s stay at Brighton may be brief.

Pedro starred in a thrilling 4-2 win for the Seagulls on Thursday night, scoring twice from the penalty spot and also setting up Jack Hinshelwood’s opener.

Brazilian attacker Pedro only moved to Brighton in May for a fee in the region of £30million, but has hit 13 goals for his new club, with seven of them in the last nine matches.

De Zerbi said: “He is the best player on the pitch, I think. He played another incredible game.

“I am really pleased for his improvement on mentality, on attitude. In defensive phase, incredible because he defended 90 minutes like a centre-back in terms of mentality.

“He is becoming, I think, a top player. I hope in the next year to work with him but I think it will be very tough.”

While Pedro tormented Tottenham all night long, it was a superb team display by Brighton, especially for the first hour on the south coast.

To top off an excellent end to 2023, Pervis Estupinan marked his first Premier League appearance since September with a superb 25-yard strike.

“It’s an incredible goal but the most important thing about Estupinan is we recover an important player because we are losing a lot of players on injuries,” De Zerbi admitted.

“We cannot play with 10 or nine players.”

Estupinan’s return from a muscle problem occurred at half-time with fellow left-back Igor Julio forced off with a tendon problem.

Youngster Facundo Buonanotte also had to be replaced with an injury concern and De Zerbi admitted they are initial doubts for the trip to West Ham next week.

He added: “Igor and Facundo suffered injuries. I don’t know if important and I don’t know for the next game in West Ham’s stadium but Igor couldn’t play the second half (due to) a tendon injury.

“And Facundo is a muscular problem.”

De Zerbi also fielded questions on Japan winger Kaoru Mitoma, who has been ruled out for four to six weeks with an ankle injury which has placed in doubt his participation in next month’s Asian Cup.

“I hope it can be less than four (weeks), but the medical staff say four, five or six weeks and I am working for Brighton, not for Japan. I can say nothing for Japan,” the Italian insisted.

“I hope for you that Kaoru can play in Asian Cup but I don’t know.”

Meanwhile, Brighton have confirmed long-serving board members Derek Chapman and Marc Sugarman will step down as non-executive directors on June 30.

Chapman has been involved with the club since 1999, while Sugarman first joined in 2009.

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