Brighton boss Roberto de Zerbi has opened up about his life in England, coaching career, management ideas and the differences between footballing cultures in Ukraine and England, in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport.
De Zerbi’s Brighton currently sit at seventh in the Premier League and are seven points behind fourth-placed Tottenham, who have played three games more than the Seagulls. As things stand, De Zerbi’s side have a chance to making it to Champions League football and if anything, qualify for the UEFA Europa League.
In his chat with La Gazzetta dello Sport, he spoke about how much his life has changed over the last year or so and he said: “Here in the Premier League, I bring with me who I am and my experience in Ukraine. The league is different and the lifestyle is the opposite, but it hasn’t changed me much, because I’ve been living alone since I was 13 for football, which has conditioned my life in a very strong way.
“Playing football in Ukraine, England or Germany doesn’t change much. In fact, when I end up here I would like to go to some other foreign country again. Because I have given everything to football , just as football has given everything to me.”
De Zerbi has also spoken about the key reasons behind his success at Brighton and he praised the club’s management and planning. He also gave credit to the strong core group of players that the team has.
“[Brighton are] An important corporate organization, with serious people. The real secret is the hard core in the locker room: people like Dunk. For me, he is one of the top 5 central defenders in Europe. Gross, Veltman, Welbeck, Webster, Lallana, March, Steele. Brighton don’t have to be careful when I leave, but when this group of players quit or leave.”
The Seagulls are in the semi-finals of the FA Cup and they will face Manchester United, who have already won the League Cup and are in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League.
Speaking about the team’s shot at silverware, he said: “It is as important as the league. We’re playing against a very strong team: Ten Hag was very good, he started with some difficulties, but now they’re in the quarter-finals of the Europa League, deservedly third in the Premier League with a team that was eighth last year.
“We’ll have to be careful, but I think they’ll have to be careful of us too, because we have the right players and we can have our say in a one-off match.”
The Italian also revealed that his goal is qualifying for Europe and he is taking a game-by-game approach in the Premier League to potentially take the side to European qualification.
“It’s getting to Europe, we’ll see which one it is. I’m not thinking about the semi-final of the FA Cup, but about the games that come first in the Premier League which are crucial for me. We have played 3 games less. It seems like an advantage, but those 3 more games they weigh down the others because we don’t have a very big squad. But we arrive well-prepared, level-headed”.
The ex-Sassuolo boss also spoke about what made him realise that he should be a manager and he revealed that a lot of it comes to down to how he couldn’t fully enjoy his time as a player.
He stated: “When I realized I had thrown away a playing career. When I stopped I realized that, as sick as I was and still am with football, I had enjoyed it for a year or two, maybe three, out of a 14-year career. I started coaching realizing that it was as if I could always live a second life in the same environment, knowing the mistakes I had made in the first. And it’s incredible luck, because if you’re not stupid you don’t make the same mistakes again.
“So I set out to enjoy fully what I hadn’t enjoyed as a player: the full stadiums, the big moves, the characters. It’s another thing I really like, handling the single player even when it can be edgy.”
De Zerbi has been linked with a host of bigger clubs and he is said to have a release clause, but it remains to be seen where his future lies.
Kaustubh Pandey | GIFN