Roberto De Zerbi says Joao Pedro is a “great player” but refused to confirm Brighton will pay a potential club-record deal for the Watford forward.
Pedro, who has scored 11 goals in 35 Sky Bet Championship outings this term, is reportedly on the verge of agreeing a summer move to the Seagulls.
The cost of the deal is expected to eclipse the transfer of defender Adam Webster from Bristol City for a fee of around £20million in August 2019.
De Zerbi initially joked he was unaware of 21-year-old Brazilian Pedro before expressing admiration for a player who joined the Hornets from Fluminense in January 2020.
“Joao Pedro is a big, big player but I don’t know if it’s close or not,” said the Italian. “He’s a great player.
“I think we are a very good team. We can improve but it’s not the right moment to speak too much about the transfer market.”
Brighton are bidding to get their European push back on track following a 3-1 midweek loss at relegation-threatened Nottingham Forest.
De Zerbi feels his players suffered a hangover from last weekend’s Wembley FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester United at the City Ground.
The former Shakhtar Donetsk coach ended training on Friday by speaking with his squad about their mentality ahead of Saturday’s home game against Wolves.
“I think we should have forgotten the Wembley match but instead we brought our disappointment inside of the game in Nottingham,” he said.
“It can happen when you are not used to playing so many games in a row, so many important games.
“Our improvement will be to get used to playing these type of games, this level of games.
“In 90 per cent of my press conferences I have spoken about the mentality, the level of the head and we finished (training) today to speak the same things.
“I am not speaking about the quality, the ability inside of the pitch. But I think we lost the game in Nottingham before we started the game.”
Eighth-placed Brighton return to the Amex Stadium this weekend to begin three-successive home matches following five games on the road.
De Zerbi, who conceded some of his players had been feeling tired due to a busy fixture list and some injury issues, hopes Albion’s fans can help the team return to winning ways.
“I am looking forward to playing in our stadium,” he said.
“I am looking forward to receive their support and their love. We need it in this moment.
“The players need the passion of our fans. I would like to play with 12 players tomorrow – 11 players with the boots and one player more in the stand.”
Striker Evan Ferguson remains doubtful after missing two games with an ankle problem but defender Joel Veltman is expected to be available.
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