When it comes to identifying talent in the world of football, a player's potential is often categorized in certain attributes. From technique and tactical awareness to competitiveness and mental fortitude, scouting networks look to check a variety of boxes in order to determine the ultimate question: Is this player good enough for my employer?
So when someone like Moises Caicedo enters the frame, the approach has to be that much more intricate. Not because he is a risk, but because his talents are so diverse, offering a prodigious ceiling.
Where the deal stands
CBS Insider Fabrizio Romano has been tracking the Caicedo transfer saga for weeks at this point. First it was Manchester United who were in control of the situation, then when United decided to pass some MLS clubs became involved with Atlanta United making a bid for the young star but Caicedo seems set on playing in Europe and Brighton is where he landed.
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What to know about Caicedo
The 19-year-old midfielder from Santo Domingo, one of the biggest cities in Ecuador, is considered one of the best talents in South America, so it's not a surprise that Europe is knocking at the door. What is welcomed, however, is just how many clubs have shown interest in him.
In the late '90s and early '00s, the Premier League was more inclined to attain South Americans directly from the continent. Players like Nolberto Solano (the first Peruvian to play in the EPL when he arrived at Newcastle from Boca Juniors) or Gilberto Silva (part of Arsenal's Invincibles, who made the move from Atletico Mineiro) made a true statement in the United Kingdom but as years went by, the trust in this continental relationship dwindled as teams decided to wait and see how South Americans did in other European leagues before taking a gamble. Gabriel Jesus is more an anomaly than anything else as his teammate Sergio Aguero arrived at Man City after Atletico Madrid, while Roberto Firmino played a big part with Hoffenheim before arriving at Liverpool.
Of course, this isn't a definite science but it seems that recently -- especially in a pandemic-ridden year -- Premier League clubs can't afford to take a gamble on unknown talent.
But what if the presumed gamble actually offers a tremendous amount of promise?
1/ Moises Caicedo [nearly] to Man United getting the Fabrizio confirmation.— Luis Miguel Echegaray (@lmechegaray) December 23, 2020
For those of you who don’t know about the 19-year-old star from Ecuador, I can’t even begin to tell you how talented he is. The ceiling is also EXTREMELY high. https://t.co/zXBt4rykWy
First of all, let's discuss Caicedo as a player. He was discovered at 13 years old by Independiente del Valle, a big club in Ecuador but most importantly, one that has a well-organized, thoughtful developmental program, Caicedo is a defensive midfielder with a seamless ability to transform himself into an architect-move-the-chains player or a forward-thinking attacker. There is a lot you can say about his game that mirrors N'Golo Kante, a player he follows closely, but also Claude Makelele, especially the Real Madrid version, where his vision allows him to disrupt play. See here from World Football Index's Adam Brandon:
There is an engine to his game that also translates into goals, which is what makes him valuable, especially when the opponent is in possession.
Before we continue, it's important to remember that Caicedo is not there yet. Patience, like everything else, is not only required, it's fundamentally necessary. When he seemed set to join one of the worlds biggest clubs his path to succes seemed like it might be to loan him out or even -- like Newcastle United is doing with Peru's Rodrigo Vilca -- or ease him in with the U-23 setup. Regardless, but at Brighton he'd likely have a chance to earn first team minutes right away.
Caicedo is already a starter for Ecuador, thanks to not just his talents, but his maturity and that's where Caicedo's potential move to Europe is calming. He is someone who begins everything with the psychological aspect of the game. He was raised to work for everything in his life and so he envisions the game as a place of growth, where everything comes as an opportunity not a problem.
Again, similar to Kante.
Caicedo, when once talking about the Chelsea star and World Cup winner in this 2018 interview with IDV TV, speaks highly of his tranquility and positive outlook on the game. "[Kante] is calm, doesn't like to argue on the pitch, he just focuses on his game and that's what I like the most about him," he says in the chat and that's something he wants to emulate and how he can possibly flourish -- by not feeling overwhelmed by the pressures of playing in one of the best leagues in the world and focusing fully on his game.
There is no crystal ball. We cannot predict what will happen with Caicedo's trajectory. But at €6 million, this decision from Brighton, if it happens, can be based on the fact that the best possible outcomes far, far outweigh the price tag.
There is a star in the making in Moises Caicedo, all it takes, is a nurturing sense of patience.