Arsenal have launched a bid to sign Moises Caicedo but Brighton are adamant the midfielder is not for sale.
Gunners boss Mikel Arteta admitted on Wednesday that the club could be forced into the transfer market following growing concerns of the severity of a knee injury suffered by Mohamed Elneny.
Caicedo now appears to be the man they have targeted and the PA news agency understands an opening offer in the region of £60million has been rebuffed by the Seagulls, who have insisted they have no intention to sell.
The 21-year-old Ecuador international has excelled this season to help Brighton to sixth in the Premier League.
Leandro Trossard has already swapped the south coast club for Arsenal in the current window in a deal worth an initial £21m – but Brighton are determined to keep hold of Caicedo.
Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi said at a press conference: “He’s a good guy. He’s focused only on Brighton. I hope he can stay with us until the end of the season because in my opinion, it’s the best solution for him, for us.
“I spoke with him Wednesday and I told him my opinion. I think it’s always difficult to change (during) a season. Because you can find problems. For our way, it’s important for him to stay another four months with us.
“He is relaxed. He’s a good guy. I spoke with him like a father, not like a coach. Because I understand when one player has the possibility to change team and go to a very big team. I understand. My work is to give the style of play, but to give also advice for his career, his life.”
Speaking to the official club website earlier this week, Caicedo distanced himself with a move away.
“I am focused on Brighton,” he said.
“I am here, I’m playing every day. Things from outside don’t trouble me, nor does it take that focus away because I’m focused only on here.
“I handle (speculation) well. You hear rumours here and there, but I only try to be focused on the club where I am now, the club which opened the doors for me to be playing every week.”
Chelsea have also been linked with Caicedo but it is Arsenal who have made the first move as the league leaders look to strengthen their squad before the window closes on Tuesday night.
As well as Trossard, Arteta has also added Poland defender Jakub Kiwior to his ranks this month.