Evan Ferguson has been ruled out of the Republic of Ireland’s upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers due to injury.
The Brighton striker, 18, sustained a knee injury in the Seagulls’ 3-1 win over Newcastle, during which he became only the fourth teenager to score a Premier League hat-trick.
Stephen Kenny’s side sit third in Group B with three points from three games, behind current leaders France and second-placed Greece.
Ferguson has earned six senior caps since making his debut against Norway in November 2022.
De Zerbi: Ferguson can become top scorer in Europe
Brighton head coach Roberto De Zerbi, speaking after the 3-1 win over Newcastle:
“I’m happy for him [Ferguson] today, not just for the goals. Pleased for his performance, especially in the first half. He found the right positions. Newcastle defended 4-4-1-1, and there was space for him. He understood where the space was. He is working to complete his qualities.
“He can become big, big, big. His qualities are enough to become a great player. He can become one of the best, the top scorer in Europe. He was born in 2004, he’s 18. I don’t know how many players are young, that score like him.”
When asked if big clubs will be looking at Ferguson, De Zerbi said: “It’s normal for Brighton to sell players. Important thing for Brighton is not to keep but to find the replacement. This is right work we need to do.”
Sky Sports senior reporter Melissa Reddy:
There was the sheer power of the first, audacity and precision of the second and a touch of fortune for the third. Evan Ferguson marked his second start of this league campaign with a hat-trick in the 3-1 win over Newcastle.
The Republic of Ireland international has now scored four league goals in just 206 minutes this season – having managed six in 951 minutes last term. No teenager has been more prolific across Europe’s top five leagues since the start of last campaign.
As Brighton secured European football for the first time in the club’s history with help from two Ferguson goals against Southampton back in May, there was a celebration for what will be, but also a tinge of regret for what could have been.
If the kid who could become king had not been unavailable for nearly a month through an ankle injury, the south-coast club are confident they would have had Newcastle and Manchester United fretting over a Champions League spot, while reaching the FA Cup final at the expense of the latter.
At just 18, the impact Ferguson had during his breakthrough season both on Brighton’s attack and opposition defences has been pronounced enough for some sharp minds in football to declare he could develop into a £100m player.
No one involved in the Republic of Ireland international’s formative years would mark that as hyperbole. Those working with Ferguson now believe we are being treated to a live showcase of a Premier League great in the making.
Is that too much expectation and pressure on a teenager? An unequivocal ‘no’ is the response from those who know him best.