Roberto de Zerbi was the outstanding candidate to replace Graham Potter at Brighton and is obsessed with ‘football and cigarettes’… now the Seagulls are reaping the rewards of his genius

Roberto De Zerbi is brilliant on detail. Everyone at the club says he loads his players with information. He’s a friendly guy who bonds easily, whether with a barber called Mehmet who cuts hair in a shop near his apartment and with whom he regularly has coffee, or with staff, with whom he’s popular.

He’s fiery at times, and can explode in frustration, but calms quickly. De Zerbi is a family man, with a daughter at university in London, a wife, Elisa, in Italy, who travels to see him, and vice versa, and a son, also in Italy.

The description most commonly cited for the 44-year-old, who had a playing career that included Napoli and managerial jobs across Italy before Shakhtar Donetsk, is that he is ‘obsessed’ with football.

After his pre-match press conference ahead of the AEK Athens game, I sit down with him in a side room and tell him everyone says he’s obsessed. He nods.

‘Football,’ he replies. ‘And cigarettes.’

Roberto De Zerbi is a football obsessive and can watch football all night, while also being a family man with a wife, daughter, and son

He adds: ‘I think I’m really lucky in life because my work is my passion. I’m enjoying working. The people who work inside of football have a big salary, and for it I consider myself very lucky.’

The previous evening he went home from work and … watched football all night. Champions League games.

‘Football is a hobby, work, passion, it’s my life. The problem is when there aren’t any games. I love to spend my time with my assistant watching the Champions League, and for us it’s an honour playing in the Europa League this season because if you live for football and can play in the middle of the week, it’s an honour, a pleasure.’

So the international break was quite difficult for you then? ‘Yes!’

Club sources say Bloom personally identified De Zerbi as Graham Potter’s successor, using data produced by StarLizard. Paul Barber confirms to me De Zerbi was on a shortlist of three but as soon as they met him, he became the only candidate they wanted, the head-and-shoulders No1, and the only one they courted.

‘I knew about Brighton because I watched a lot of Premier League games,’ De Zerbi says. ‘We had a meeting in London with Tony Bloom and with Paul Barber and David Weir and they explained to me their philosophy, their idea, their plan.

‘They were very close to my ideas. I always thought I had to decide the best place, the best club for me . . . but not for the money or the level of competition but for the ideas and the style of work.

‘Working with young players is a good thing for me.’

Club sources say chairman and majority owner Tony Bloom personally identified De Zerbi using data produced by StarLizard

Club sources say chairman and majority owner Tony Bloom personally identified De Zerbi using data produced by StarLizard 

Brighton appealed to the Italian manager because he likes working with young players

Brighton appealed to the Italian manager because he likes working with young players

De Zerbi said on Tuesday he is living the dream. ‘I finished in Ukraine in a bad way, you know which way [because of the war]. And then when I started to work here it was very difficult, no? For me as a foreign coach in a new country with new players and the last coach left for a big club.

‘But it’s been like a dream — style of play, the relationship with the players, with the club, the people who work inside, the results. I like living in Brighton.’

I tell De Zerbi that his name is cited in the same conversations on contemporary coaching innovators as Pep Guardiola. The two are friends. ‘It’s a madness that my name is [associated] with Guardiola,’ he says.

‘I think I’m a good coach. I’m able to be a coach but sincerely I don’t think I’m changing anything. I’m keeping my ideas, I’m transferring my ideas to our players, and they are very good.

De Zerbi is friends with Pep Guardiola and says it is a 'madness' that the two are compared

De Zerbi is friends with Pep Guardiola and says it is a ‘madness’ that the two are compared

‘I know the importance of a coach, because I was a player, but the players are more important than the coaches. You can have the best idea but if you don’t have the right players to show your idea, it’s impossible.

‘Guardiola is on another level. For me, he’s the best. I want to improve my ideas. My improvement is not finished yet and I don’t want it to finish!’


Source From: Football | Mail Online

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