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You’re a football genius if you can name second highest goalscoring Premier League player this season

BRIGHTON have unearthed so many hidden sparklers their tag as football’s treasure hunt kings is more than merited.

The likes of Moises Caicedo, Marc Cucurella and Alexis Mac Allister were all snapped up for a snip, polished to perfection then sold for an eye-watering profit.

Erling Haaland is the top scoring Premier League player this season

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Erling Haaland is the top scoring Premier League player this seasonCredit: Getty
Joao Pedro is the joint second-highest scoring Premier League star this term

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Joao Pedro is the joint second-highest scoring Premier League star this termCredit: Rex

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A club-record £30million last summer, Joao Pedro was hardly an unknown. More hiding in plain sight after three years at Watford.

Yet with 18 goals in 15 starts, thanks to Saturday’s FA Cup treble at Sheffield United which included two penalties, he is the second highest scoring Premier League player this season, after Erling Haaland.

He already looks a snip and the vultures are once more starting to circle.

Just as they are for home-grown hitman Evan Ferguson, twinkle-toed winger Kaoru Mitoma and left-sided Pervis Estupinan.

But the next time any would-be big spender thinks they simply have to pick up the phone and dangle a cheque with several noughts, they are in for a shock. Instead they are as likely to get a “thanks but no thanks” from a club now operating to a different agenda.

These days the Brighton policy is one of them scaling new heights, not helping others to get there.

A policy they know is needed for another, even more crucial, reason.

Proving their own ambitions will keep pace with those of the boss.

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Like many of the players, Roberto De Zerbi arrived at the Amex  Stadium as a mystery man in England, when Graham Potter was tempted to Chelsea.

Yet if Potter laid down solid foundations, De Zerbi is building a luxury mansion, to the point he is being touted for some of the  biggest jobs in the game.

Pep Guardiola speaks of him as a potential successor, while envious and interested glances are being cast from Old Trafford.

Brighton know he will not be with them forever. But they are equally aware that if their dreams are as big as his, the Italian’s feet will not be  so itchy quite so quickly.

That is why the strategy now is not one of constantly rebuilding. It is simply about building. About high finishes, rather than high finance.

That is why Pedro is not a man merely passing through but a man with a long-term part to play.

The same goes for Ferguson, Mitoma and the rest. Including a host of on-loan kids cutting their teeth elsewhere, but who De Zerbi will turn into the finished article.

De Zerbi always tries to help the players and he helps me a lot — that is why I scored and feel confident on the pitch

Joao Pedro

Pedro’s treble, plus goals from Facundo Buonanotte and Danny Welbeck, saw last year’s semi-finalists roll over the Blades to set up a fifth-round clash at Wolves.

And Pedro, whose penalty record is now a perfect ten this season – the most of any player in Europe’s top five leagues – believes experienced team-mates have  pushed him to new heights.

He said: “This has happened because my team-mates help me.

“James Milner and Pascal Gross, they always say, ‘Come on, Joao, you can do more for us’ — and that is why I got a hat-trick. How we play is easy to understand when you practise a lot.

“De Zerbi always tries to help the players and he helps me a lot — that is why I scored and feel confident on the pitch.”

Victory at Luton on Tuesday will take Brighton into the Prem’s  top six.

They are already above United, Chelsea and Newcastle. Only  Guardiola’s Manchester City better them for possession and passes.

No wonder he rates De Zerbi as his ideal successor.

It is up to Brighton to delay that departure date as long as possible.

Pedro has scored TEN penalties this season, the most in Europe's top five league

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Pedro has scored TEN penalties this season, the most in Europe’s top five leagueCredit: Rex

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