Brighton & Hove Albion have built a reputation for unearthing talented youngsters, and one of the finest jewels they have found is Republic of Ireland striker Evan Ferguson.
The 19-year-old was signed from Dublin-based club Bohemians in January 2021 and he has been a revelation since joining the Seagulls.
He debuted for Brighton against Cardiff City in a League Cup tie in August that year and has grown from strength to strength since then.
Ferguson netted his maiden Brighton goal at the beginning of the 2022/23 campaign in the second round of the League Cup win over Forest Green Rovers.
He bagged his first career league goal in a loss to Arsenal on the final day of 2022 and doubled his tally in a match against Everton a few days later.
Ferguson ended the season with 11 goals and four assists in 28 matches in all competitions, helping the Seagulls to qualify for the Europa League for the first time in their history.
He has started the campaign with six goals and two assists in 21 appearances, sparking talk in online betting circles that he could be worth wagering on as a future Golden Boot winner.
Brighton are desperate to keep hold of Ferguson as they strive to keep defying the odds, but several big clubs are eying a summer move for him.
While several sports betting sites in Ireland are tipping him to stay on the south coast, we assess which of the interested parties could be best placed to tempt Brighton into selling.
Chelsea’s blues in front of goal have been well-documented. The Londoners finished last season with 38 goals – only four sides in the Premier League scored less.
The two-time Champions League winners have improved marginally in terms of chance creation this season but still lack a clinical finisher to stick the ball in the back of the net.
The Blues signed Nicolas Jackson from Villarreal over the summer, and he has netted eight goals. However, he has also missed 13 big chances, leading to calls for a more prolific centre-forward.
Chelsea are long-term admirers of Ferguson and could move for him in 2024. He offers the movement in the box that Jackson currently lacks.
Ferguson has the hold-up and link-up play to hurt opponents even outside the box. He is solid in the air and on the ground and poses constant questions to the defensive line.
He can bring his side into the game with his back to goal, a quality that endeared legend Didier Drogba to the Chelsea faithful even when he was not bagging goals.
Ferguson has ice in his veins in front of goal, recording a 26% conversion rate in the league – nine percent higher than Jackson.
Chelsea have a great business relationship with the Seagulls, having previously signed Marc Cucurella, Robert Sanchez and Moises Caicedo from them.
The Blues have shown they are not afraid of splashing the cash to get what they want, and they somehow always get Brighton to do business despite their initial reluctance.
The Red Devils shelled out €75 million to sign striker Rasmus Hojlund from Atalanta last summer, but he has failed to score in 13 Premier League games.
United’s other centre-forward is Anthony Martial, who is surplus to requirements at Old Trafford. The Frenchman is heading into the final year of his contract and there are no plans to renew his deal.
Martial has only netted twice this season, and United will not really be missing much when he eventually departs. To solve their attacking woes, United reportedly asked Brighton about Ferguson during the summer and were told he is not for sale.
However, they could return for him in 2024. The arrival of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS as minority shareholders at Old Trafford is expected to change the club’s transfer strategy.
Ratcliffe was reportedly wary of United’s tendency to sign established stars like Raphael Varane and Casemiro and will be looking to bring in fresh blood. Ferguson fits perfectly into this category.
He has shown his prowess in front of goal and ability with his back to goal. He also has vital Premier League experience and could be a catalyst for big exploits at United.
Tottenham lost Harry Kane during the summer and are yet to replace him. Ferguson could be the ideal option, although he would not be cheap.
Heung-min Son has been leading the line with Richarlison playing back up, but Spurs need a reference point in attack and Ferguson fits the bill.
Unlike Chelsea and Man United, the step up to Tottenham should not be too much for him to handle with expectations at the club slightly lower than their rivals.
Ange Postecoglou has shown he is a nurturing manager since joining from Celtic, and he would love to help Ferguson fulfil his undoubted potential.
The youngster could lead Tottenham’s press from the front and allow Son to return to the flanks. He could be the missing link to take Tottenham from title pretenders to contenders.
A move to Arsenal has also been touted for Ferguson, but he may not be a good fit for them given their penchant for overplaying at times.
By contrast, Postecoglou’s more direct approach could get the best out of Ferguson and it would be no surprise to see them make a big play to secure his services next summer.