Roberto de Zerbi: New Brighton boss reveals Pep Guardiola seal of approval

Roberto De Zerbi

Roberto de Zerbi says he spoke with Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola before taking over as Brighton manager.

“I spoke to Pep on Sunday evening, yes. He’s very happy that I’m on board here,” the Italian said.

“He told me very good things about the club, and if I need he will be very happy to help me – but of course not in the match we are playing against them!”

De Zerbi, Brighton’s first choice for the role, also revealed that he elected to join the Premier League side over a host of other opportunities.

“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.”

De Zerbi was available after leaving his previous role as Shakhtar Donetsk manager earlier this year following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He said: “Of course I was not expecting everything to finish in February, and of course it was bad not only due to the war, but having to leave something going very well.

“What I can do is keep working with the same passion. Of course I have in me these experiences but also feeling for the Ukranian people and the players I trained.”

De Zerbi, whose first game in charge will come against Liverpool at Anfield on 1 October, spoke through a translator for the majority of the news conference but made an opening statement in English and promised language would not be a barrier for long.

“I’m sorry for my English, my goal is to start to speak English by January,” he said.

“I’m very happy to be here, I’m very happy to be the new head coach, and I want to say thank you to the chairman and the club. I have studied every single player, and I will do a very good job.”

Brighton sit fourth in the Premier League and have not played since Potter’s departure, with matches against Bournemouth and Crystal Palace postponed.

The football he will play will be very exciting because it’s very risky – analysis

Italian football expert James Horncastle on BBC Sport’s Euro Leagues podcast

He [De Zerbi] is a big admirer of Pep Guardiola. I remember when he was starting out, he went to see Pep at a pre-season training camp in the Dolomites when he [Guardiola] was coach at Bayern Munich. He was a visitor at the Manchester City football campus only a few weeks ago, he was there with his staff.

You have to look at De Zerbi as this new wave of Italian coaches which has not been influenced by coaches close to home – the Capellos, the Lippis and the Allegris. It’s a generation that has grown up with more access to Spanish, English and German football.

He’s broken off news conferences after Sassuolo games to say, ‘C’mon guys, wrap it up, I need to go and watch [Marcelo] Bielsa’s Leeds United’.

I think the football he will play will be very exciting because it’s very risky. He likes to invite teams on to his team and play through the press – because he thinks that gives them a numerical advantage – and that has driven some old school Italian managers mad.

But, he’s committed to it and that’s why he is more of an acolyte of Pep rather than the great Italian managers.

I’ve been told he can hold a conversation in English but it’s clearly something he needs to work on. It’s an exciting appointment and enriches the Premier League as well.

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