Facundo Buonanotte has packed a lot into his short career. At 17, a stunning breakthrough at boyhood club Rosario Central prompted Carlos Tevez, his manager, to compare him to Lionel Messi. A transfer to Brighton followed. A senior Argentina debut too.

That it has all happened before turning 19 makes it even more impressive. But it has not been without its challenges. “I have experienced a lot,” he says to Sky Sports as he reflects on his first year in England. “Amazing moments and sad moments.”

One of the highlights came earlier this month, when he scored a superb goal – his second for the club – in Brighton’s Premier League meeting with Chelsea. Roberto De Zerbi described the young forward’s performance at Stamford Bridge as his best yet.

Buonanotte agreed with his manager’s assessment, even though, as he says, he was “carrying a little injury” beforehand.

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Facundo Buonanotte was a second-half substitute in the 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest

“He picked me anyway,” he adds with a smile, “so I was very happy.”

He is happy, too, that he has overcame the initial struggles that followed the move. “The language, the customs. It’s a lot of change,” he says. Then there is the weather – the south coast in January was a shock to the system – and, of course, the football.

“I think the main thing is the intensity and the speed of play,” he says of the difference between Argentina’s Primera División and the Premier League. “Here, it is so quick. You don’t have time to think. By the time you receive the ball, you already have a player on you.”

Buonanotte had to adapt but there are few better clubs than Brighton to facilitate it. Within a month of his arrival, he was making his Premier League debut. By the end of the season, he was starting regularly, another young gem making a mark under De Zerbi.

How can Brighton top Group B?

Brighton sit second in Europa League Group B and have already qualified for the knockout stages having taken 10 points from five games.

In order to qualify as group winners, they must beat leaders Marseille, who have 11 points, at the Amex Stadium on Thursday.

“I’ve enjoyed it all,” he says. “It’s a great club, a great city and I’m very, very happy to be here. It wasn’t an easy decision because it wasn’t just Brighton who wanted to sign me. There were various clubs.

“But I decided with my family and my agent. We chose Brighton because we knew it was the best decision. After a year here, I can confirm that, yes, it was the best decision I could have taken. It’s an excellent club in every sense and I want to stay here for a long time.”

Who better than De Zerbi to nurture his considerable potential?

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Watch Facundo Buonanatte’s goal in Brighton’s recent meeting with Chelsea

The Italian has placed youth at the heart of his transformation of Brighton. With Buonanotte, Evan Ferguson, Julio Enciso and Jack Hinshelwood, they are only the second team in Premier League history to have had four teenage scorers in a calendar year.

De Zerbi is a demanding coach. His tactical demands are complex. But there is room for expression too. “I speak a lot with him and also with the assistants and they help me a lot,” says Buonanotte.

“They always tell me to enjoy myself. If I lose the ball, they want me to ask for it again. And if I have to make a mistake, I make a mistake, but I always have to ask for the ball and help the team.”

It wasn’t an easy decision because it wasn’t just Brighton who wanted to sign me. There were various clubs. But we knew it was the best decision

Facundo Buonanotte on joining Brighton

The 18-year-old has primarily played on the right-hand side of Brighton’s attack, where he is able to cut inside and use his stronger foot. But there have been opportunities at No 10 too.

“When I’m playing in the middle, it’s very important that I control the ball and find my team-mates,” he says, “and that, when it’s time to press, I press, and that I am constantly moving, and that I try to play quickly because here, as I said, you don’t get time.”

Has there been any frustration during his periods out of the team? De Zerbi has rotated extensively this season. Buonanotte has started three of Brighton’s last five Premier League games but, before that, there was a run of only one start in 11. He is yet to start in the Europa League.

Facundo Buonanotte primarily plays on the right but has also been used at No 10
Facundo Buonanotte primarily plays on the right but has also been used at No 10

“Every manager has his own point of view,” he shrugs. “I started every game at Rosario Central. Here, I haven’t played as much. But it’s down to the manager. He decides who plays and who doesn’t.

“Of course, if you train well and you have a good week, you give yourself a better chance of playing on the day of the game.”

It helps that Buonanotte is a fighter.

“I think if you ask any Argentinian, the first thing they will tell you is that we have balls and that we have fighting spirit,” he grins.

“I have a great relationship with the coaching staff here and they are always telling me that Argentinians are like that, that we have fight. We can misplace a pass or make a technical mistake, but attitude and fight are non-negotiable for us.”

Facundo Buonanotte in action against Manchester City last season
Facundo Buonanotte in action against Manchester City last season

The departed Alexis Mac Allister demonstrated those same qualities and, like his countryman, Buonanotte feels he is a far better player than he was when he arrived at Brighton. There has been an emphasis on bulking up physically but that’s not all.

“Of course, the physical changes are the ones people see on the surface, but I think I’ve improved in lots of aspects since I’ve been here,” he says. “That’s how I feel, as much in a footballing sense as a physical one, and even in terms of the language.

“I think people can see that I’m improving every day and that makes me happy.”

Tevez, the former West Ham, Manchester United and Manchester City striker, certainly saw that back at Rosario Central in Argentina, where Buonanotte scored four goals in 24 top-flight appearances.

Tevez: He reminds me a lot of Messi

“The way he brakes and accelerates reminds me a lot of Messi,” said former Rosario Central boss Carlos Tevez of Facundo Buonanotte.

“It has been a long time since I’ve seen a boy play like that, giving me so much pleasure, and I watch a lot of football.

“He has a great mentality. He doesn’t seem only 17. He is at a high level and I don’t think he has a ceiling. He can go as high as he wants.”

“Carlos was a manager who helped me a lot,” says Buonanotte.

“He was the one who gave me the opportunity to start for the first time, to get minutes and start showing the player I am. He and his coaching staff are a big part of why I’m here now.”

That Messi comparison did him no harm either. “It had an impact,” smiles Buonanotte. “To be compared to, for me, the best player in the world is something that grabs your attention.

“I was very grateful to Carlos. It was amazing to be compared to Leo. But I always say that, in my opinion, there are no players who compare to him. It would be a lack of respect for me to compare myself to him because it’s impossible.

“Leo is the best player in the world, possibly in history, and I’m just starting out. I just want to be Facundo Buonanotte.”

Facundo Buonanotte made his Argentina debut against Indonesia in June
Facundo Buonanotte made his Argentina debut against Indonesia in June

He counts Messi as an international team-mate now having made his debut for Lionel Scaloni’s side in a friendly against Indonesia in June. Another dizzying development in a year full of them for the teenager. But his focus is firmly on Brighton.

“First of all, I just want to play a lot of minutes,” he says when asked about his ambitions for the future. “After that, I want to make history with Brighton, to win a trophy, to fight for the Europa League and fight for the Premier League.

“Brighton is among the big clubs now, always fighting, so I think winning a trophy would be a beautiful thing.” And, after the year he has had, why shouldn’t Facundo Buonanotte set his sights high?

Follow Brighton vs Marseille in the Europa League live on Sky Sports’ digital platforms from 6.30pm on Thursday; kick-off 8pm

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