Roberto De Zerbi has promised to keep Brighton on track to achieve his 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 has chosen Brighton over a host of other managerial opportunities.
Brighton owner Tony Bloom described De Zerbi as “naturally fit” to take the Amex Stadium club forward after Potter left for Chelsea.
Brighton bosses Paul Barber and Bloom insisted De Zerbi is shortlisted to take the helm, with both the club and new manager believing their qualities and vision match.
De Zerbi said he hopes to break through at the Premier League club, thanks in part to the good work done by his predecessor Graham Potter, who was at Chelsea before leaving.
Potter has earned a solid reputation as a visionary coach at Brighton thanks to his flexible style, innovative coaching methods and attention to detail, and De Zerbi said he was ready to help the fourth-placed club continue to improve.
“It’s very easy for me to work in Brighton because I know the work that Potter has done before me,” Italian De Zerbi told reporters at his official presentation.
“The players have the right skills and the qualities, especially mentally, to play my style of football and play boldly the way I want it to.
“It is clear that I am now taking 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 picking Brighton from Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.
“Brighton really wanted me to coach and the way they play is very similar to my idea of football,” said De Zerbi.
“We met right after we started talking. Of course, other teams were interested in me, but I’m happy to be here.
“I think we’re on the same wavelength and I’m sure we can do well. I spoke to Pep on Sunday evening, yes. He is very happy that I am on board here.”
“He told me very good things about the club. And he told me that he will be very happy to help me if I need it – but of course not in the game we are playing against them!
“I think the right vision is to always improve. And of course, last season ended in ninth place, so our vision is to stay in the top 10 teams in the league.
“It’s a big challenge for me. I come to work in the most important league in the world.
“I come here very humbled because I know where I come from to work. But of course I come here with my personality to do what I can and bring my experience here with what I can do.”
Brighton owner Bloom praised former Sassuolo and Shakhtar Donetsk boss De Zerbi’s razor-sharp analysis of the Seagulls, which impressed in the interviews.
“Roberto fits the club really well, the players we have and our style,” said Bloom. “There are many similarities between Graham Potter and Roberto and that was very important to us.
“When we met Roberto the conversation was fluent, it went very well. We are really confident that we now have the right head coach for this football club. I think Roberto did his homework, he knew a lot about it.” the football club in recent years.
“That was just a few days after Graham left so I was quite impressed with the work he was doing. I think the person is absolutely crucial; when we hire a head coach it’s the person, the coach, the personality, the fit with the club.
“All the pieces have to fit right and they absolutely did with Roberto; he’s a natural fit for this club.”
De Zerbi has received FA clearance to work with the Seagulls, with his work permit in the final stages.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ended De Zerbi’s tenure at Shakhtar, leaving the Italian coach no choice but to change careers.
“The decision to train in Ukraine was mine. I had chances to stay in Serie A but I chose Shakhtar,” said De Zerbi.
“I made this decision for the players, the club and the chance to play in the Champions League.
“And of course I didn’t expect it all to end because the conflict started. It was also bad to leave something that was going very well.
“What can I do other than keep working with the same passion that I’ve 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 coaching career at Italian amateur club Darfo Boario.
- 2014 to 2016: He joined Foggia in Serie C, winning the Coppa Italia Serie C and narrowly missing out on promotion.
- 2016: Spent two and a half months at Serie A club Palermo but was sacked after a poor start to the season.
- 2017 to 2018: Most recently at Serie A promoted Benevento. De Zerbi drew praise despite his side’s relegation to Serie B.
- 2018 to 2021: Appointed manager of Sassuolo who led the club to two consecutive eighth places. Missed Europa Conference League against Roma in 2021 on goal difference.
- 2021 to 2022: He took his first job outside of Italy at Shakhtar Donetsk and won the Ukrainian Super Cup in September 2021. Due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he left the role.
De Zerbi garnered rave reviews at Sassuolo for his style of football that has taken them to two eighth places in Serie A, and he won the Ukrainian Super Cup with Shakhtar last year.
De Zerbi met with Chairman Bloom, Chief Executive Paul Barber and David Weir in London earlier this week and flew to Brighton on Friday before watching a closed-doors friendly at the Amex on Saturday.
Brighton have also made arrangements with De Zerbi’s coaching staff and hope the group is a week ready for Saturday’s Premier League clash with Liverpool.
‘It will be fun to watch Brighton play’
Italian football journalist Marco Demicheli on what to expect from Brighton’s new head coach:
“He likes to be very attacking; he likes to have an attacking team with a lot of attacking players. He likes to play from behind and I think de Zerbi’s idea of football is similar to Maurizio Sarri’s. They’ll have fun.” Watch Brighton play.
“During the summer, Bournemouth had many discussions with De Zerbi and his agent, but he chose not to go there because he didn’t feel he had the freedom to do what he wanted.
“Even in Italy in Sassuolo there were many times big clubs linked with him – especially Roma tried to take him. He didn’t go there because in Sassuolo he felt he had the freedom and the opportunity to play the football he wanted.” He wouldn’t have that at Roma or any other big club.”
What’s in store for De Zerbi?
The Italian now has two weeks to settle in Brighton and organize his backroom staff with Premier League players on an international break. He will also be able to meet and work with the players who are not playing for their country.
He then begins a busy and grueling month in October, beginning his reign with a trip to Liverpool on Saturday 1 October before playing Tottenham in his first home game a week later on Saturday 8 October Welcome to Amex, live on Sky Sports.
De Zerbi and his side are back on Sky Sports for Friday Night Football with a trip to Brentford on October 14 and welcome Nottingham Forest on the south coast four days later.
On Saturday 22 October, Brighton meet Premier League champions Manchester City at the Eithad before an Amex showdown against former manager Graham Potter and Chelsea on Saturday 29 October.