Skip to content

Roberto De Zerbi praises Graham Potter and targets top-10 finish after signing four-year deal as Brighton head coach

Roberto De Zerbi has been out of work since leaving Shakhtar Donetsk in July; he previously managed Sassuolo in Italy; De Zerbi replaces Graham Potter who left the club earlier this month to join Chelsea

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Newly-appointed head coach Roberto De Zerbi revealed that Man City manager Pep Guardiola offered to help him. He also said the Brighton players suit his style of play.

Roberto De Zerbi has pledged to keep Brighton on course for their pre-season ambitions of a top-10 Premier League finish.

The 43-year-old Italian has signed a four-year deal at the Amex Stadium and insisted at his unveiling on Tuesday he picked Brighton over a host of other managerial opportunities.

Brighton owner Tony Bloom branded De Zerbi a "natural fit" to take the Amex Stadium club forward after Potter left for Chelsea.

Brighton bosses Paul Barber and Bloom insisted De Zerbi was on a shortlist of one to take the helm, with both club and new coach believing their qualities and vision align.

De Zerbi said he hoped to hit the ground running at the Premier League club thanks in part to the good work done by his predecessor Graham Potter who before his departure to Chelsea.

Potter earned a glowing reputation as a visionary coach at Brighton due to his flexible style, innovative coaching methods and attention to detail and De Zerbi said he was ready to help the fourth-placed club improve further.

"For me it's very easy to start work at Brighton because I know the work done by Potter before me," Italian De Zerbi told reporters at his official presentation.

Also See:

"The players have the right skills and the characteristics, especially mentally, to play my style of football and to play brave, as I want.

Roberto De Zerbi  has been unveiled as new Brighton boss
Image: Roberto De Zerbi has been unveiled as new Brighton boss

"It's clear that now I take a team that is fourth in the table and that has given me more motivation."

De Zerbi also revealed he had received the seal of approval for choosing Brighton from Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.

"Brighton strongly wanted me as a coach, and their style of play is very similar to my idea of football," said De Zerbi.

"We met each other straight after we had started to talk. Of course, other teams were interested in me but I'm delighted to be here.

"I think we're on the same wavelength and I'm sure we can do it well. I spoke to Pep on Sunday evening, yes. He's very happy that I'm on board here.

"He told me very good things about the club. And he told me that if I need he will be very happy to help me - but of course not in the match we are playing against them!

"I think the right vision is to try to improve always. And of course last season ended in ninth so our vision is to stay in the first 10 teams of the league.

Former Shakhtar Donetsk head coach Roberto De Zerbi is set to take the vacant managers position at Brighton (AP)
Image: Roberto De Zerbi has been out of work since leaving Shakhtar Donetsk in July

"For me this is a big challenge. I'm coming to work in the most important league in the world.

"I come here very humble because I know where I'm coming to work. But of course I come here with my personality, to do what I know to do, bringing here my experiences of what I know to do."

Brighton owner Bloom hailed former Sassuolo and Shakhtar Donetsk boss De Zerbi's razor-sharp analysis on the Seagulls, that impressed during interviews.

"Roberto is a really good fit for the club, for the players we have, and the style," said Bloom. "There's a lot of similarities between Graham Potter and Roberto, and that was a really important thing for us.

"When we met with Roberto the conversation flowed, it went very well. We're really confident we've got the right head coach for this football club for right now. I think Roberto had done his homework, he knew a lot of about the football club in recent years.

"This was only a few days after Graham had left so I was pretty impressed with the work he had done. I think the person is absolutely key; when we hire a head coach, it's the person, the coach, the personality, the fit with the club.

"All parts have got to fit correctly, and they absolutely did with Roberto; he's a natural fit for this club."

File photo dated 30-04-2022 of Graham Potter, a contender to replace Thomas Tuchel, who Chelsea have sacked after 100 games at the Stamford Bridge helm. Issue date: Wednesday September 7, 2022.
Image: Former Brighton manager Graham Potter is now in charge at Chelsea

De Zerbi has received FA clearance to start work with the Seagulls, with his work permit approval in the final stages.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine cut short De Zerbi's stint at Shakhtar, leaving the Italian coach with no choice but to change tack for his career.

"The choice of coaching in Ukraine was mine, I had chances to stay in Serie A but I chose to go to Shakhtar," said De Zerbi.

"I took this decision for the players, the club, the opportunity to play in the Champions League.

"And of course I was not expecting everything to finish when it did because of the start of conflict. It was bad also to leave something that was going very well.

"What can I do except keep going to work with the same passion that I have always shown? I will always have that experience, at the club and with the people."

De Zerbi's coaching career so far

  • 2013 to 2014: Began his coaching career with Italian amateur side Darfo Boario.
  • 2014 to 2016: Joined Serie C side Foggia, winning the Coppa Italia Serie C and narrowly missing out on promotion.
  • 2016: Spent two and a half months at Serie A side Palermo, but was sacked after a poor start to the season.
  • 2017 to 2018: Joined recently promoted Serie A side Benevento. De Zerbi earned plaudits despite his side's relegation back to Serie B.
  • 2018 to 2021: Appointed manager of Sassuolo, leading the club to two successive eighth-place finishes. Missed out on the Europa Conference League to Roma on goal difference in 2021.
  • 2021 to 2022: Took his first job outside of Italy at Shakhtar Donetsk, winning the Ukrainian Super Cup in September 2021. Left the role due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

De Zerbi earned rave reviews for his style of football at Sassuolo, leading them to two eighth-place finishes in Serie A, and he won last year's Ukrainian Super Cup with Shakhtar.

De Zerbi met chairman Bloom, chief executive Paul Barber and David Weir in London earlier this week and flew to Brighton on Friday before watching a behind-closed-doors friendly at the Amex on Saturday.

Brighton have also agreed deals with De Zerbi's coaching team and hope to have the group in place for their Premier League clash against Liverpool a week on Saturday.

'It will be fun seeing Brighton play'

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Italian football journalist Marco Demicheli runs the rule over Brighton's new head coach Roberto De Zerbi and says the fans can expect an attacking brand of football.

Italian football journalist Marco Demicheli on what to expect from Brighton's new head coach:

"He likes to be very offensive; he likes to have an attacking team with many attacking players. He likes to play out from the back and I think De Zerbi's idea of football is similar to Maurizio Sarri's one. They're going to have fun seeing Brighton play.

"During the summer, Bournemouth had many talks with De Zerbi and his agent but he decided not to go there because he didn't feel he would have the freedom to do what he wants.

"Even in Italy at Sassuolo there were many times big clubs were linked with him - Roma especially were trying to take him. He didn't go there because at Sassuolo he felt he had the freedom and the chance to play the football he wanted whereas at Roma or another big club he wouldn't have that."

What's coming up for De Zerbi?

Brighton's Premier League fixtures

The Italian now has two weeks to settle into Brighton and organise his backroom staff with the Premier League players on an international break. He will also be able to meet and work with the players who are not featuring for their countries.

He then starts a busy and testing month in October, starting his reign with a trip to Liverpool on Saturday October 1, before welcoming Tottenham to the Amex in his first home game a week later on Saturday October 8, live on Sky Sports.

De Zerbi and his side are back on Sky Sports for Friday Night Football on October 14 with a trip to Brentford, welcoming Nottingham Forest to the south coast four days later.

Saturday October 22 sees Brighton take on Premier League champions Manchester City at the Eithad before an Amex showdown against former manager Graham Potter and Chelsea on Saturday October 29.

Win £1,000,000 with Super 6!
Win £1,000,000 with Super 6!

Super 6 is back, bigger and better than ever with a £1,000,000 jackpot. Play for free.

Around Sky