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De Zerbi lays down the law by leaving transfer target Trossard in the cold

Leandro Trossard is one of the most coveted players in the Premier League right now with some of the biggest clubs in the world interested in securing his services. None of that though has impressed Brighton head coach Roberto De Zerbi, who has left Trossard out in the cold with a very public warning when it comes to his top scorer’s commitment to the Seagulls cause.

Trossard began 2022/23 in electric form, scoring seven times and claiming three assists from 14 appearances. Included amongst that haul were three goals at Anfield, putting Trossard into an exclusive three-man club of Brighton players to have scored a top flight hat-trick, alongside Peter Ward and Gordon Smith from the Seagulls’ spell in the old Division One between 1979 and 1983.

The Belgian international has subsequently been linked with Newcastle United and Chelsea. On the continent, Atletico Madrid and AC Milan were both said to be keeping tabs on Trossard, whose four-year deal signed when he arrived from Genk in the summer of 2019 had been due to expire this summer.

Brighton though had the option of extending by another year. The Seagulls have since activated that clause, meaning Trossard is under contract at the Amex until 2024. There seems little prospect of him agreeing a new deal beyond that, with his representatives having spent the past six months proactively talking up a move away from Brighton.

Charlton Athletic v Brighton & Hove Albion - Carabao Cup Fourth Round

Leandro Trossard missed his spot kick as Brighton exited the Carabao Cup on penalties away at Charlton Athletic / Gaspafotos/MB Media/GettyImages

Since returning from the World Cup, there has been a noticeable drop-off in Trossard’s performance levels to the point that some Albion fans have accused him of downing tools. He failed to make any impact when Brighton suffered their shock elimination from the Carabao Cup at the hands of League One strugglers Charlton Athletic, missing the first penalty in the shootout.

Whilst his Albion teammates shone in winning 3-1 at Southampton on Boxing Day, Trossard was a peripheral figure. Against Arsenal on New Year’s Eve, he was withdrawn with Brighton trailing the Gunners 3-0. The Seagulls posed a far greater attacking threat without Trossard, scoring twice in the final 30 minutes and seeing a third goal controversially ruled out by VAR for offside.

Evan Ferguson

Evan Ferguson scored and assisted away at Everton after Trossard was dropped by Roberto De Zerbi / Gareth Copley/GettyImages

De Zerbi clearly shared supporters’ concerns about Trossard’s committment, taking the bold decision to drop him to the bench for the trip to Everton in favour of 18-year-old Evan Ferguson. The teenage Irish striker justified De Zerbi’s faith at Goodison Park, scoring and assisting in a 4-1 Seagulls victory as Trossard remained an unused substitute.

Speaking about Trossard before Brighton won 5-1 at Middlesbrough in the FA Cup, De Zerbi said: “I want players to work for the team and the squad on the pitch. And Leandro knows very well my opinion and my idea. I spoke a lot of times with him.”

“I like him as a player but I want more from him because he can play better, he can work harder, he can run more on the pitch, and I want players who give 100% always in every training session and every game. Without this characteristic or these things, they can’t play with me.”

FBL-ENG-PR-BRIGHTON-ARSENAL

De Zerbi has told Trossard he needs to give 100% to earn his place back / GLYN KIRK/GettyImages

In one of several public utterances regarding his future, Trossard previously said he was open to a move from Brighton but he would not go somewhere to be a bench warmer. Ironically, that is the position he now finds himself in at the Amex, out of the team at a time when De Zerbi has found a way to do what Graham Potter struggled with and get Brighton scoring goals. No Premier League side have scored more in their past six games than the 17 plundered by the Seagulls.

De Zerbi’s stance also sends a warning to other members of his squad who are the subject of intense transfer speculation. Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo are both predictably being linked with Chelsea amongst others. In dropping Trossard, De Zerbi’s message is no one player is bigger than Brighton and all the while you remain under contract at the Albion, you will be expected to give 100 percent.

In fairness to Mac Allister and Caicedo, they have both affirmed their commitment to the Albion in interviews and matched that with some superb performances since returning from Qatar, unlike Trossard. It seems unlikely that De Zerbi will need to get his stick out in dealing with his midfield duo before the summer transfer window arrives and interest will surely be matched by firm bids.

Leandro Trossard

Trossard has been challenged to rediscover his form from the first half of the 2022/23 season / Visionhaus/GettyImages

For Trossard, the ball is now in his court. Brighton rarely sell players in January, even if an individual is entering the final 18 months of his contract. The Seagulls rejected £35m for Yves Bissouma from Aston Villa a year ago, preferring to keep him until the end of the campaign and accepting a reduced fee from Spurs in the summer.

Trossard can now either knuckle down, work hard, prove himself to De Zerbi and win his spot back in a Brighton XI which have the potential to make further club history before the end of the season. Or he can spend the next six months in the cold as a forgotten man, his legacy as one of the leading scorers in the Albion’s Premier League era tarnished.

More important than Trossard’s future is what De Zerbi’s stance says about the Albion head coach and the club itself. He was unafraid to jettison a player who previously looked too important to be dropped. Not only that, but he has ensured Trossard’s absence has had no detrimental impact on the Albion.

De Zerbi has strengthened his hand and showed he holds all the power – and at a club with a squad as talented as Brighton where numerous players are coveted by the biggest teams in the world, that is massive.

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