Chris Hughton has paid a glowing tribute to departing defender Uwe Huenemeier, who is set to re-join former club SC Paderborn this summer.

The centre-back joined Brighton from the German club in 2015 and is set to return to North Rhine-Westphalia once his contract with the Seagulls expires at the end of the season.

​Brighton boss Hughton has been keen to praise the German defender for his three years of service at the Amex Stadium, telling the club’s ​official website: “Uwe has been an outstanding player and professional for this club since the day he arrived.

“While we are very sorry that he will leave us this summer, we completely understand his desire to play regularly”, Hughton continued.

Though Huenemeier has been largely surplus to requirements for Brighton this season, with Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy establishing a solid partnership in the Seagulls’ first-choice defensive unit, the German is credited as a significant part of the club’s success in previous campaigns.

“He played a significant part in our promotion season, as well as the near miss a year earlier”, Hughton recalled. “Fans will know about his performances on the pitch, but what they may not be aware of is his consummate professionalism in training and his lifestyle.

“This season his chances have been limited, understandably, but he has still trained at an incredible level, alongside others in a similar position, and if needed, I know I’d have no qualms about Uwe coming into the side – as he showed for the match against ​Everton.

“On behalf of the club and also on a personal level, I would like to thank Uwe for his excellent service to this club – he’ll go down in club history as part of the promotion-winning side – and wish him well for the future.”

With Huenemeier's future away from Brighton resolved, it remains to be seen whether Chris Hughton will feel it necessary to dip into the transfer window this summer in search of a suitable candidate to replace the German, and to provide greater competition for Dunk and Duffy next season.