Those in the know at Chelsea were devastated when Tariq Lamptey rejected a contract renewal and opted to move to Brighton in January and it is now abundantly clear that the 19-year-old is the one that got away.
Lamptey’s speed, balance and end product combine to make him one of the most exciting young players in the Premier League and he earned the man of the match award in last weekend’s 3-0 away win at Newcastle.
‘Love Lamptey’, proclaimed Jamie Carragher on Twitter, with the right-back having broken into the Seagulls’ first team under Graham Potter since the return of football after the coronavirus-enforced lockdown.
Potter knows what kind of bargain he’s got on his hands; the south coast club exploited Lamptey’s expiring contract at Stamford Bridge to force a £3 million ($4m) deal that includes a future sell-on fee but no buyback clause for Chelsea.
Brighton have got themselves a stunning deal with Potter’s influence helping them win the race to sign Lamptey ahead of Lille and Torino who both put pre-contracts on the table.
Paris Saint-Germain, Wolves and Nice were also tracking the youngster but they stopped short of offering him a way out of Chelsea.
It is understood that the Blues were furious to lose a homegrown youngster they regarded so highly. They expected that he would renew terms in west London after Frank Lampard gave him his first-team debut last season.
That came away at Arsenal at the Emirates with the Blues 1-0 down and his introduction would be part of a comeback that registered one of the club’s best wins of last term.
Lamptey felt Chelsea’s affections and found it very hard to turn down a contract at the club he had represented since the age of seven. But with Reece James already coming through in his position he chose to take charge of his own destiny.
There was too much talent at Cobham, especially at full-back, and unfortunately for Chelsea it allowed him to make his escape.
For Lamptey, that decision to move already looks wise. His development is rapidly accelerating due to the chances being given under Potter at the Amex Stadium.
Potter is one of the most tactically flexible managers in the Premier League and he has used Lamptey at right-back in a back four, but it is as a wing-back ahead of three centre-halves where he really can show his attacking attributes.
Tariq Lamptey Marcos Alonso Mason Mount Brighton Chelsea GFX Lamptey has made his England Under-21s debut in the last month and he will increasingly be on Gareth Southgate’s radar for the senior reckoning.
Steve Holland is a former Chelsea coach and now is the assistant to Southgate at the Three Lions and he watched on as Lamptey excelled against his former club a fortnight ago.
England’s strongest position is at right-back with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Trippier, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Kyle Walker and Reece James all fighting for selection.
The London-born full-back also qualifies to play for Ghana through his parents and could yet opt for the west African nation unless he makes his senior competitive debut for England soon.
It is not only Carragher, those at Brighton or behind-the-scenes at Cobham that love Lamptey, he has already managed to catch the eye in his relatively few Premier League appearances so far.