If you’ve recently found yourself immersed in Brighton & Hove Albion or Chelsea Twitter, you’ve likely come across a heated debate centered around one player—the battle for Levi Colwill. Brighton & Hove Albion are looking to strengthen their defense for their upcoming European campaign, and two left-footed center-backs have emerged as potential transfer targets: Chelsea’s talented 20-year-old Levi Colwill and Fiorentina’s formidable 25-year-old Igor Julio. While both would be valuable additions, I firmly believe that securing Colwill should be the top priority for building a strong foundation for the future.
Colwill’s Standout Loan Season
During the previous season, Colwill joined Brighton on loan and swiftly emerged as a standout player, impressing with 22 appearances across various competitions under the guidance of Roberto De Zerbi. Despite his youth and inexperience, the commanding 6’0” defender demonstrated maturity from the start and confidence beyond his years when called upon. While raw in some areas, Colwill’s upside is proven to be immense given his well-rounded attributes.
Aerial Prowess and On-the-Ball Ability
In my opinion, The Englishman’s greatest strength is his aerial prowess and on-the-ball ability. Finding a left-footed center-back of his caliber is a rarity these days, and it comes as no surprise that Chelsea would be interested in bringing him back after his impressive loan spell, especially following his successful campaign in the U21 Euros with England.
Throughout his loan stint, Colwill demonstrated his dominance in the air, winning an impressive 85.3% of aerial duels, providing solidity in set-piece situations, and handling crosses with ease. Colwill showed little fear matching up physically against seasoned Premier League forwards further, showcasing his prowess at such an early stage of his career. This robustness will once again prove valuable for De Zerbi as he implements a tactical system focused on controlling possession, which relies on a strong defensive foundation in case the risky maneuvers falter. Colwill’s defensive acumen, coupled with his world-class distribution, made him an ideal fit for this role.
Impressive Defensive Skills and Distribution
Levi Colwill’s distribution and on-the-ball skills are an integral part of De Zerbi’s playing style. In addition to his defensive strengths, he demonstrates technical finesse when in possession. His 89% pass accuracy rate reflects this supreme composure and quality distributing from the back. Colwill can progress play through his accurate short passing, but also possesses the vision to deliver incisive longer balls to break lines. He averaged an outstanding 35.5 progressive passes per 90 minutes last season. While primarily a left-footer, his comfort on either foot also brings an added unpredictability in possession.
Colwill’s maturity continues to shine through in his positioning and awareness. He exhibits top-quality instincts stepping out from the backline to make key interceptions with a total of 15 successful interceptions last season. When in possession, Levi Colwill uses his pace well to sweep up threats. Despite his age, he can organize and marshal a defense. This is clearly reflected in his stats averaging 48.9 passes per 90 just within his own half.
Manager Roberto De Zerbi praised Colwill back in May, he said ‘I would like to work with him for another two, three, four years because it’s difficult to find another left center-back with his qualities. He’s a good guy, he’s improving a lot. This year his improvement has been fantastic and I hope he can stay with us.’
The Emergence of Igor Julio
But, day by day… week on week Brighton fans lose hope of this becoming a reality. And finally, it seems Brighton may have lost hope too… It has emerged over the last few days that Fiorentina center-back, Igor Julio, is the next in line to come in. In what feels like a bit of a Brighton signing, a fairly under-the-radar monster of a defender who could prove to be a huge addition if it comes through. He offers a more affordable left-footed center-back option at a reported £13-15 million price tag.
The 25-year-old Brazilian played a pivotal role for La Viola last season, making 30 appearances across Serie A and the Coppa Italia. Standing at the same height as Colwill at 6’0″, Igor similarly provides a commanding presence both physically and aerially. He won 3 aerial duels per 90 minutes in Serie A last campaign.
In possession, Igor boasts a tidy technique and posted an 88% pass completion rate. He is adept at short distribution, moving the ball laterally to build attacks. While not as expansive a passer as Colwill, Igor carries a threat driving forward when the opportunity arises. His 82% dribble success rate is impressive for a center-back, highlighting close control and confidence in progressing with the ball.
Comparison of Attributes: Levi Colwill vs Igor Julio
Defensively, the Brazilian exhibits good anticipation, getting to an impressive 25 successful interceptions last season. At 25, Igor is approaching his prime years with room to refine his game further. It seems clear he would add valuable depth and rotation for De Zerbi if Brighton can secure his signature.
However, when comparing the attributes of Colwill and Igor, the Chelsea youngster boasts higher upside and long-term potential. Despite Igor’s quality and value at £13-15 million, Colwill is simply a generational English talent worth investing in, if we can even get Chelsea into negotiations that is. The 20-year-old exhibits the technical traits and elite potential to become a truly world-class defender.
The Decision: Pursuing Colwill
Levi Colwill’s comfort on the ball and distribution range would allow him to boost De Zerbi’s possession-heavy tactics once again. His ball-playing ability suits the inverted fullback roles De Zerbi employs, giving license for the wide defenders to underlap inside. This would be useful once again with potential new talent at right-back and wing positions ahead of the new season which would enable Colwill and bring him potentially to a new level. Levi Colwill can cover the vacated space out wide and even step into midfield himself to dictate play. Defensively, his athleticism and intelligence offer security and elasticity to implement a high line.
The challenge is almost completely in prying Colwill away from Chelsea, who rate him highly as a star ready to step in almost immediately as a starter under Pochettino. But Brighton have a strong relationship with the Blues and Colwill’s affinity for the club after last season’s loan could help. It was originally thought that submitting a bid of £30-40 million may convince Chelsea to do business but even at that record-breaking fee from Brighton, Chelsea almost immediately turned it down.
My thoughts on this still remain clear though and I’m sure Brighton was in similar headspace going into it. While it would be a record outlay, it would still be a worthy investment in a top English talent before his value skyrockets further than it has done already. Once part of De Zerbi’s setup, we know Colwill would thrive and elevate Brighton’s defence to new heights once again.
Igor, at the base, represents a smart bargain option and would arguably also settle easily. Many Brighton fans can easily imagine The Brazilian starting alongside club legend and fellow defensive monster Lewis Dunk providing a left-footed alternative at the heart of Brighton’s backline. But the ceiling on Colwill’s talent coupled with his Premier League experience make him the primary target.
Either way, I would like to reassure some nerves in the Brighton camp and perhaps boost expectations of Colwill for Chelsea, I have full trust in the club and look forward to seeing how this saga plays out from here. Brighton have proven time and time again to be adept at scouting hidden gems and developing players under Potter and now De Zerbi.
In Levi Colwill, they have the chance to secure a potential superstar who could spearhead their defense for the next decade. He is the exact mold of young, high-upside talent a club like Brighton should be pursuing. Doing everything possible to sign Colwill, even at a premium fee, will give the Seagulls their center back of the future. But it is also evident that Igor is now also a very realistic target and provides a backup should a deal for Colwill be completely unachievable. We can be assured that, either way, soon many of these questions will be answered as Brighton pull together the squad ahead of what is set to be a testing season.