New Brighton signing Moises Caicedo is one of those few people who can look back on 2020 with immense pleasure.
At the start of the year the teenage Ecuadorian was not yet a first choice player with his club, Independiente del Valle.
By the end he was a full international, fighting and winning midfield battles against the likes of Uruguay and Colombia in World Cup qualification.
He was seen as one of the hottest properties in South American football. It is a fair bet that if he were Brazilian the transfer fee might have been considerably higher than the reported £4 million.
Caicedo hurdled every obstacle in style last year. He looked instantly at home first in domestic football, then in South America’s Champions League and then as a senior international.
He had thought of himself as primarily a defensive midfielder, a specialist in breaking up attacks in the mould of Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante.
It soon became clear to himself and everyone else that he could do much more, that he had the engine, the ability and the calm to run the game from box to box.
He has been well taught. For a decade and a half, little Independiente del Valle have been specialising in youth development.
They have excellent facilities and bring over highly regarded youth coaches from Spain, while Caicedo has proved an excellent student.
Moises Caicedo the footballer has shown that he is ready for the challenge ahead. The question now is whether Moises Caicedo the human being is ready.
The European market is no longer particularly interested in players based in South America who are in their mid 20s. They want them young. The price is cheaper, and, it is thought, the adaptation process is easier.
That may be true on the pitch. There are clear advantages in working with the player as soon as possible, getting him used to a quicker style of play where he has to take rapid decisions.
The problems are more likely to come off the field. A 19 year old footballer, like Caicedo, may well be young for his age – shielded from some of the usual adolescent rites of passage by a total focus on football.
There are obvious risks in plucking someone of this age away from his native culture and language. The young player can easily feel lost and disorientated.
The good news in this case is that, according to Graham Potter, Brighton have resisted the temptation of sending Caicedo out on loan.
This seems attractive on paper; there is the chance of regular first team football. But there are huge pitfalls.
Being loaned to club with no long term stake in the player’s development can be an awful experience, especially for South American players.
They want to feel special. They have often come up the ranks being made to feel special. All too easily they can feel the cold of an unwelcoming dressing room filled by players with whom they cannot communicate.
Many a career has lost momentum as a consequence. And momentum was one of the best things about Moises Caicedo in 2020.
It is pleasing to hear, then, that Potter has identified the priority.
“He’ll stay with us,” said the Brighton boss, “and we’ll help him settle in. The main thing is for him to adapt to his new surroundings” – and then start showing for Brighton what he was doing last year for club and country.