Roberto De Zerbi says one of his first conversations with Alexis Mac Allister when he comes back to the club will be about his best position in the team.
The 23-year-old starred alongside Lionel Messi in the heart of Argentina’s midfield as they overcame the disappointment of losing 2-1 to Saudi Arabia in their opening game to win the trophy for the third time. Mac Allister played a total of 555 minutes and contributed a goal in the win over Poland and an assist in the final against France.
De Zerbi said, “Alexis can play anywhere on the pitch. I don’t know if he’s better as a playmaker or 20 metres further forward. I like him a lot in the deeper position and I’ll speak to him about it when he gets back.
"I spoke with his father and he told me he prefers the Argentina position, but in that position we have [Adam] Lallana and Lallana is a teacher.
“I think Alexis is a big, big player in terms of quality, but more in terms of mentality. He understands the game before he receives the ball. He has a strong character and strong personality.
“I was not surprised by his quality of play in the World Cup. He was a very important player and I think he learned from his father this mentality. In every training and every game, he is 100% mentally strong. In the last [Premier League] game with Aston Villa he gave a fantastic performance. He could have been worried about missing the World Cup but he gave 100% like the other players.”
Mac Allister is back in Argentina as the celebrations following their third World Cup success continues and De Zerbi says he is not expected back for a couple of weeks.
“Before the game I sent a message and after the game I sent one simple message to congratulate him for the win,” said our head coach.
“We are proud for him, for us. Brighton has a player who has won the World Cup, and this is a great thing for us, it’s like we won the World Cup together with him. On Sunday I was watching the game and I was a crazy Argentinian supporter. As I am Italian I had no reason for that except that in the game there was one of my players.
“He was one of the best players at the World Cup. His style of play was clear, he didn’t make mistakes, he understood the play.”
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Albion return to action after the World Cup break tonight when they bid to reach the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup for only the second time in our history.
More than 6300 Albion fans will be at the Valley for our game against League One Charlton and although there is no Mac Allister, De Zerbi says the other seven Albion players who were at the World Cup are available.
But it’s likely De Zerbi will rotate the team with two important Premier League games against Southampton and Arsenal on the horizon.
“All players are able to play tomorrow, but for I want to give Billy Gilmour the chance to show his quality and it’s the same for Julio Enciso and Levi Colwill,” said De Zerbi. “Deniz Undav scored two goals against Aston Villa in Dubai, so he’s in a good moment. I have to give all the players the opportunity to play, they want to feel confident and the possibility to play.”