He might be involved in Tuesday night’s trip to everton if head coach Roberto De Zerbi decides he is ready.
Speculation has been rife about the 24-year-old’s future during the break given to him by Brighton to soak up the celebrations in Buenos Aires and back home in Santa Rosa after Argentina‘s triumph in Qatar.
Mac Allister was granted a fortnight off. He wasn’t supposed to be back until the build-up to Saturday’s FA Cup third-round visit to Middlesbrough but is returning sooner, such is his eagerness to resume action with Brighton and to catch up with his team-mates.
The club is not surprised by the scale of the reported interest in Mac Allister, but they are suspicious of the reliability of those reports and the probability that many of them are driven by agents jumping on a bandwagon.
They don’t treat any of it seriously until there is direct contact from a club. At the time of writing, there has been no such contact in relation to Mac Allister or anyone else.
There’s not thought to be a release clause in the new contract shrewdly negotiated with Mac Allister and his representatives by the club four weeks prior to the World Cup, through to June 2025 with an additional one-year option for Brighton.
Effectively putting a price on a player’s head is not how they routinely conduct their business.
Argentina’s success in Qatar and Mac Allister’s key part in it have catapulted his value to a different level. Even if a club or clubs come forward, it will require an eye-watering offer — over and above what he would attract in the summer — for Brighton to even contemplate losing him halfway through a season rich in promise for De Zerbi’s side, with little Time to sign a suitable replacement.
Brighton’s reputation for playing hardball was firmly established when Manchester City made what was regarded by owner-chairman Tony Bloom and his executive team as an insulting £30million bid for Marc Cucurella in the summer.
The Spanish defender was sold to Chelsea for a fee which could rise to over £60million.
What’s the premium for a World Cup winner? It’s hard to quantify. There’s no specific formula, but Brighton are taking multiple factors into consideration.
Cucurella didn’t make it into Spain’s World Cup squad. Mac Allister isn’t just a World Cup winner, he played a significant role after Lionel Scaloni left him out of the shock 2-1 defeat by Saudi Arabia in Argentina’s opening game.
He started the remaining six games in Argentina’s route to glory. He scored for the first time for his country in the group-stage victory over Poland which sealed a place in the last-16 and produced a series of impressive performances, embellished by the manner in which he regularly linked the play with Lionel Messi.
His contribution reached a crescendo in the final against France with the assist for Argentina’s memorable second goal, scored by Angel Di Maria, and an outstanding all-round display. Only six members of Scaloni’s squad in Qatar played more than Mac Allister, who accumulated 550 playing minutes.
Another factor in assessing his value to potential suitors is the scope of his versatility. Scaloni used him for Argentina as a more advanced midfielder, often drifting in from the left to combine with Messi.
Since making the first of 86 appearances, including 13 goals, for Brighton in March 2020, he’s played in various midfield positions.
Both under Graham Potter and now De Zerbi this season, Mac Allister has forged a classy double pivot in the center of the park with Ecuadorian international Caicedo.
Arsenal struck lucky in that sense, facing Brighton when they were without both players following a fifth booking of the season and accompanying one-match ban for Caicedo in the closing stages at Southampton on Boxing Day.
Pascal Gross other Billy Gilmour, on his full league debut for the club, tried their best to mask the gaping hole. They don’t possess the same chemistry or combination of slick passing, tempo and athleticism provided by the South American pair, although De Zerbi understandably played down their absences.
“It wouldn’t be right for me to speak about (missing) Mac Allister and Caicedo,” he said. “People know their quality, but Gilmour played a fantastic game and Pascal the same.”
Mac Allister’s humility, longevity with Brighton, and his deep-rooted appreciation for the way the club has developed are other factors that separate him from the circumstances that surrounded the sale of Cucurella, who became swiftly swayed by the interest from elsewhere after one season.
Knowing his character traits, Brighton do not anticipate that Mac Allister will be agitating for a move.
They cannot ever say never, but there’s every chance that they, his team-mates and the supporters will be able to enjoy the technical gifts of their World Cup winners for at least the rest of the season.
(Top photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)