Albion's talent-spotter wasn’t supposed to be watching Robert Sanchez during his weekend in Spain.

But he couldn’t take his eyes off the big kid in goal for Levante as a youth team match played out in front of him.

So began a story which, at Tottenham on Sunday evening, took the now 22-year-old into the Premier League with the Seagulls.

Back in the 2014-15 season, Albion were assembling an international scouting team they felt they would need if they were to reach the elite.

It was all part of the Premier League Ready message which was mocked by some at the time as the Seagulls fought against relegation to League One.

Mark Anderson, who famously picked out a 15-year-old boy at QPR named Raheem Sterling during his time scouting for Liverpool, headed up a revamped team designed to put Albion ahead of the game.

The plan was to broaden the academy scouting network.

To that end, he acted on a tip-off to watch a player during a trip to Spain.

He told The Argus: “Brighton were preparing for the Premier League.

“We built a new network of scouts and put some systematic coverage in place because we wanted to be Premier League ready for when they got there.

“Rightly so, because it worked.

“We were quite a way in front of some other clubs who don’t prepare and then, when they go up, it’s a mad rush.

“Through my contacts I was watching Levante youth. I’m sure it was against Cartagena.

“There was a player who had been flagged up to me but it was Robert who caught my eye during the game.

“The player I went to watch has done okay but Robert just stood out.

“He was a great shape and size, good physique, athletic.

“He had two fantastic feet. You couldn’t really tell whether he was left-footed or right-footed.

“His kicking was pinpoint, he had loads of confidence and you could tell he had some character about him as well.

“He was the one in the team who was the motivator and a little bit of a joker as well.

“I was over there for the weekend and I watched him and liked him.

“My contact there made some enquiries and we managed to do a deal with Levante.

“We didn’t sign him until he was 17. He was very cheap even then and especially compared to what you pay for young players now.”

Sanchez had been with several clubs as a kid and they were all entitled to compensation, which complicated the deal.

But Anderson was convinced it was worth the trouble.

He said: “It doesn’t happen that often but he was one I had a real gut feeling about when I saw him. You know there is something there and you would climb mountains to get him.”

Former Spanish professional Sergio Barila, now an agent, helped sort things with Levante.

Ruben Mato, who was scouting for the Seagulls in Portugal, also assisted in some aspects, including the language barrier.

Sanchez comes from a pretty modest background in Murcia and did not speak much English at the time.

But Anderson said: “He picked it up really quickly. He was a fantastic kid, a great character.

“Everyone loved Robert, he was that kind of kid.

“He would pop up in places he shouldn’t really have been but I think he was looking for an extended family.”

Albion did not really need another young goalkeeper at the time.

Sanchez joined Christian Walton and Bailey Vose, who went on to play professionally for Colchester, in the youth ranks.

Thomas McGill, who is now on loan at Crawley, was also coming through.

The Argus:

Mark Anderson

Sanchez has always had a commanding presence and the ability to play with his feet.

That confident footwork might leave him well-suited for a Graham Potter team.

It certainly went down well when he was on loan last season at Rochdale, who love to play out from the back.

Of course, it is still very early days. He has only played one Prem match and Maty Ryan will push hard to get his place back.

Anderson would love to see Sanchez progress and push for international honours. That will have to be at senior level now after Spain overlooked him in the junior age groups.

He said: “Robert has every attribute it takes.

“I can’t understand why Spain have not come in for him, even at a younger age.

“He was a very young lad in a man’s body but he has been out on loan and is taking his chance - and Brighton have got some great goalkeepers.”

Specialist coaches Ben Roberts and Justinas Gasiunas have been important figures for Sanchez.

The Argus:

A youthful Robert Sanchez with Ben Roberts

He was helped to settle by the presence of midfielder Luis Garcia, whose arrival from Gran Canaria created more excitement at the time than that of another goalkeeper.

Garcia was much courted while Albion did not have to fight off anyone to get Sanchez.

He is now back at Las Palmas, looking to progress from the B team after a stint with Sevilla.

Ben White, Aaron Connolly and Jayson Molumby were all among talents being attracted to Albion at that time. Anderson has watched their progress with interest.

He joined Manchester United in January 2017 but has decided to move on at the end of this year.

The Seagulls, he believes, have no reason to envy anyone when it comes to recruitment and development of young players.

He said: “The thing I really like about Brighton - and it’s very rare - is that the coaching and recruitment philosophy are both singing from the same hymn sheets.

“Every person across the departments knows what’s going on.

“We all understood and knew what it would take to make professional elite people.

“At other clubs, when you bring players in, coaches won’t buy into it.

“At Brighton, even now, everything is spot on apart from just trying to get some stability in their results in the Premier League.”

Patience is key. The time factor means some of those who were there at the start of a player’s path will move on before their efforts bear fruit.

In the case of Sanchez, that includes David Burke, the head of football operations whose recruitment for the senior side was much criticised towards the end of his time at the club.

Anderson said: “Coaches and managers get credit, which is fair enough, and its great to see young players getting a chance.

“But what we do is collective and there is a lot of unseen groundwork that goes in to get players over the line.

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“Recruitment are the first people out there and the first point of contact.

“It’s from the scouting to the admin to education and welfare and sports science, the chefs.

“Everybody has played a part but I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time.”