Eddie Howe believes David Brooks would be playing for a bigger club than Bournemouth had he not been struck down with glandular fever.
Wales international Brooks underlined his undoubted potential with both goals as the Cherries returned to winning ways by beating 10-man Brighton 2-0.
The 21-year-old midfielder, signed from Sheffield United in the summer for a fee in excess of £10million, missed almost three months of action last term due to illness.
He has impressed since moving to the Vitality Stadium, with Bournemouth boss Howe admitting the player is “ahead of schedule” in his development following Saturday’s match-winning display.
“We liked the player a lot from watching him at Sheffield (United),” said Howe.
“He obviously hadn’t played a great deal at the back end of last season due to glandular fever and he had to recover from that period, which is probably why we were able to sign him.
“If he’d carried on playing and stayed fit he probably would have gone beyond us.
“Full credit to him for that and also the ability to handle the Premier League, to not get carried away with his early-season success, to be very level-headed – that’s a huge bonus.
“(He is) certainly ahead of schedule, I would say, we’ve been pleasantly surprised.”
Brooks fired home from the edge of the box to open the scoring in the 21st minute against the Seagulls, before sealing victory with a looping header.
His second came four minutes after Albion captain Lewis Dunk was sent off for a second bookable offence.
“I think he showed his quality in both moments,” added Howe, on Brooks.
“We knew we were getting a very technical player, a very intelligent player, we knew those things.
“Perhaps what we didn’t know was how good he was going to be for the team, he really buys into the team ethic, the defensive component of the game and the tactical understanding of how we play he’s grasped very, very quickly.”
Victory for Bournemouth was just their second in eight top-flight games and inflicted a third successive loss on the Seagulls.
The visitors had the better of the first half and would have been ahead but for Cherries goalkeeper Asmir Begovic keeping out efforts from Yves Bissouma, Jurgen Locadia and Dunk.
Brighton’s hopes of taking something back to Sussex were effectively ended when Dunk’s 73rd-minute dismissal was quickly compounded by Brooks’ second.
Albion boss Chris Hughton was aggrieved about the sending off as he felt Dunk’s initial yellow card – for a foul on Brooks – should have been shown to midfielder Bissouma.
“Our query with the red card – we have no doubts about the second yellow – but our thinking on the first one is it’s Bissouma who makes the first contact,” said Hughton.
“That being the case, it’s incredibly harsh on Lewis.
“That’s our grievance at the minute, that the booking should have been for Bissouma as opposed to Lewis Dunk.”
Speaking about his team’s display, he added: “Really pleased with our performance, particularly in that first half period, and it felt to tough to come in at 1-0 down.
“But that’s the game, it’s about making sure you take your chances; if you don’t, you’re up against a talented team that will test us.”