Reports over the last weekend suggest Brighton & Hove Albion have had a £35m offer for Ajax’s Mohammed Kudus accepted by the Amsterdam club, and are now in contract discussions to bring the Ghanaian international to the South Coast ahead of the new season.
A man in high demand, there were reports of interest from the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal this summer, but it seems like Brighton have won the race to land Kudus’ signature.
It’s a battle that others might well regret in time, but given Brighton’s model of recruitment, it still represents a significant outlay – the club would be smashing their record transfer fee paid for the second time this summer, given this fee exceeds the £30m paid for former Watford man João Pedro.
But there’s plenty of reasons to believe that Brighton will be getting serious value for their money. Kudus is one of the most sought-after young talents across the European continent and beyond, because he brings a remarkably wide skillset to the table at such a tender age.
Why Brighton should sign Kudus
Elite young talent
Having just turned 23, Mohammed Kudus has already managed an incredible amount in the game. Plucked from FC Nordsjaelland at just 20 years old, the Ghanaian played 84 times for Ajax in three seasons, scoring 23 goals and providing 11 assists.
It means he has contributed a goal or an assist at a rate of once every 118 minutes in his time in an Ajax shirt through his formative years at the club, culminating in last season’s virtuoso displays.
Kudus truly came into his own after the departure of manager Alfred Schreuder, as replacement coach Jonny Heitinga gave the youngster his full backing – a backing he paid back with interest.
In 2023 alone, Kudus scored 8 times and provided 5 assists in a spell of just 21 games, coming off the back of a World Cup where he had put the world on notice with a beautifully taken brace against South Korea for his national team.
After Manchester United signed Antony from Ajax last year, Dutch football legend Marco van Basten suggested in an appearance on TV that he thought that Erik ten Hag had brought the wrong Ajax forward to Old Trafford.
Comparing the two, van Basten stated that “Kudus is smarter and more technical. He is much more of a footballer and more fun to watch, you can place him anywhere on the pitch.”
Versatile attacking threat
One of the question marks around Kudus remains where his best position is. As a youngster coming through, Kudus had operated in a more withdrawn Number 6 role, but his minutes for Ajax have come in a far more forward-thinking position.
Last year he gained the majority of his playing time either playing as a False 9-esque striker, or later on in the season, cutting in from the right wing, which is also where he scored that brace for his nation from in the World Cup.
He has been clear that he feels his best role is a little bit deeper than that, roaming from a free-eight position in a three man midfield, or slotting in behind the striker as a Number 10, but what we’ve seen in his senior career so far suggests that his goalscoring acumen currently outweighs his ability to play the killer pass.
That’s not to say that Kudus isn’t a creative player. His dribbling style, where his short stature gives him a low centre of gravity and allows him to take the ball under pressure and glide past defenders, is not dissimilar to that of Lionel Messi, although any comparisons further than that should probably be avoided for everyone’s sake.
Perfect fit for De Zerbi's style
In pre-season, we’ve seen De Zerbi experiment with a 4-4-2 shape as well as his standard 4-2-3-1, and Kudus’ aforementioned versatility should allow him to play a major part in both systems.
With the departure of Alexis Mac Allister this summer, Brighton’s creative thrust in the middle of the park has been diminished, but with Kudus playing as the most advanced of Brighton’s midfielders in a 4-2-3-1, he’d be able to fill much of the void left by Alexis’ departure by adding more ingenuity into the Seagulls’ frontline.
Alexis was a brilliant all-round midfielder though, and it’s not just his offensive output Kudus would contribute to. He’s an excellent ball-winner too, and not afraid to get stuck in, which is potentially why he sees himself long-term in a deeper role than what he’s been playing for Ajax.
Kudus has proven too that he’s sensible in terms of making the next step in his career. When he left Denmark, there were offers from around Europe, with some major clubs dangling carrots, but he chose Ajax because he could see a clear path to the first team.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing. Schreuder’s suggestion last summer that he wasn’t going to be part of his starting lineup made an exit a real possibility, before a move to Everton was blocked due to Antony’s departure.
That said, Kudus got his head down and reintegrated himself into the fold before emerging as Ajax’s key man under Heitinga. He has two years left on his deal, but with a new contract offer turned down, it makes sense for Ajax to sell this summer whilst they can get a premium price for Kudus.
Brighton have proved their credentials as an established Premier League project heading in the right direction under De Zerbi, and that idea feels like it would be of real interest to a player who seems incredibly switched on about the trajectory of his career.
Proven at the top level
Brighton are entering European competition for the first time in the club’s history, whilst losing a key man in Alexis and potentially another with Chelsea’s continued interest in Moises Caicedo.
They’ve signed smartly in the form of Bart Verbruggen, Mohamed Dahoud and James Milner, all of whom have European experience under their belts, and Kudus would add further to that pool, whilst being young enough to have good resale value, and replacing some of the offensive output lost this summer.
Kudus’ Champions League output of 4 goals and 2 assists in 9 games is nothing to be sniffed at, whilst he featured too in the Europa League for Ajax – and thus should not be overawed by the occasion of Brighton’s maiden continental journey.
After a season where Kudus was the shining light on the up despite his club starting to go backwards, a move to Brighton feels like an intriguing next step for one of the brightest talents in European football right now.