Chelsea forced back into negotiations
After a statement like that, how could Chelsea not make renewed contact with Brighton? How could they not produce a new offer that exceeded Liverpool’s proposal? Caicedo had done his part, showing his willingness to join them above all other teams, and had sent an astonishing message to the world of football. The onus was now on Chelsea to do theirs.
On Friday evening, late into the night, they did. Club executives made contact with Brighton and a deal worth £115 million was agreed in principle. Liverpool had been in the picture for only a few days, and now they were effectively out of it again.
At which point, it is worth rewinding a few months. At the start of the summer window, Chelsea’s first bid for Caicedo was £60 million. They have therefore ended up paying almost double what they originally proposed. For that reason alone, Brighton will consider themselves to be triumphant in this saga. They signed Caicedo, in February 2021, for £4 million. They even succeeded in inserting a significant sell-on clause in the deal with Chelsea.
As reported by Telegraph Sport throughout the summer, Brighton have always valued Caicedo at £100 million or more. The transfer of Rice to Arsenal, in a deal that could be worth £105 million, only strengthened their resolve. Chelsea continued to up their offers during pre-season, producing bids of £70 million and then £80 million, but Brighton rejected them all immediately. There were no counter-proposals, and no suggestions of finding a middle ground. Brighton sources talked of Chelsea being “miles” away from an acceptable price.
It should not be forgotten that Arsenal bid £70 million for Caicedo in January, when the player released a public statement in which he declared his intention to leave the south coast. Brighton simply refused to sell, and they made it absolutely clear that Arsenal’s approaches were not welcome. Caicedo was distraught. While he later signed a new contract, that deal was never expected to keep him at the club beyond this transfer window.
By the time Chelsea played against Brighton in a pre-season friendly in the United States, it was becoming increasingly obvious that the only way they could sign Caicedo this summer was if they put serious money on the table. Around £100 million, at least. Unless, that is, they decided to include Levi Colwill as part of the deal.
In an extraordinary press conference in a small and dusty room in Philadelphia in July, De Zerbi effectively proposed a swap deal involving Colwill (who had spent last season on loan at Brighton) and Caicedo. After fielding multiple questions about Caicedo, De Zerbi told a group of travelling British journalists: “You have to ask me if Colwill wants to come to Brighton. There are two questions. Not only about Caicedo.”