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Roberto De Zerbi: how a ‘little genius’ was helped on his street to Brighton | Brighton & Hove Albion

Roberto De Zerbi was recognized throughout his enjoying profession as “the little genius”. Provided that his days as a left-footed No 10 have been spent virtually solely in Italy however outdoors Serie A, such a billing could seem beneficiant. Maybe fittingly, although, two coaches usually referred to in comparable glowing phrases have helped the 43-year-old on his path to the Premier League.

De Zerbi takes cost of Brighton for the primary time on Saturday at Liverpool appreciative of Pep Guardiola’s and Marcelo Bielsa’s inspiration and help. When the Italian was sacked by Palermo in 2016 after lower than three months, his prospects regarded grim. His dismissal had been sparked by seven consecutive Serie A defeats and Coppa Italia elimination by second-tier Spezia. A message despatched to Bielsa, considered one of his idols, received the response he wanted.

De Zerbi had requested to look at some coaching classes and acquired a textual content from the then Lille supervisor inviting him and his workers to attend coaching for per week. For De Zerbi it was a formative expertise and helped him to construct teaching concepts that, through two extra Serie A stints and Shakhtar Donetsk, prompted Brighton to rent him as Graham Potter’s alternative.

De Zerbi had lengthy been learning Guardiola by the point he received to see Bielsa at work. He analysed the Catalan’s Barcelona and Bayern Munich coaching classes earlier than taking a job with Foggia in Italy’s third division in 2014 and the quirk of De Zerbi’s birthplace has accomplished no hurt in constructing a powerful relationship with Manchester Metropolis’s supervisor, whom he regards as a task mannequin.

De Zerbi was born in Brescia and has performed for his hometown membership, the place Guardiola had two spells as a midfielder within the early 2000s. He was instructed years in the past by Guardiola he was destined to handle within the Premier League and their bond is such that they spoke earlier than De Zerbi accepted the Brighton job. “He instructed me that if I would like he will likely be very glad to assist me,” De Zerbi has stated.

De Zerbi can be delighted by comparisons to Guardiola, and Bacary Sagna has stated he sees similarities. The best-back performed beneath Guardiola at Metropolis earlier than he joined De Zerbi’s Benevento in 2017. “Pep and De Zerbi’s coaching classes will not be so completely different: they ask for similar type of issues,” he stated. “I’m certain De Zerbi will be part of a prime membership very quickly.”

Pep Guardiola and Marcelo Bielsa at Manchester City’s game at home to Leeds in December 2021
Pep Guardiola (left) and Marcelo Bielsa at Manchester Metropolis’s recreation at dwelling to Leeds in December 2021. {Photograph}: Phil Noble/Reuters

De Zerbi’s obsession, like Guardiola’s, is to dominate the ball and management video games. His Sassuolo workforce had the second-highest possession statistics in Serie A in 2019-20 at about 59.5% – bettered solely by Antonio Conte’s Internazionale – and the popular construction of his groups has lengthy been clear.

He units up in 4-3-3, generally configured as 4-2-3-1, and likes wingers on the coronary heart of his technique. Ball-playing centre-backs and a playmaker are, with the goalkeeper’s assist, tasked with attracting the press, then enjoying by it at pace. De Zerbi is described by gamers, and himself, as “a hammer” – continually hammering away to search out enhancements, by no means permitting vitality ranges to drop.

It’s why he locations such emphasis on coaching. “The sport is simply the results of the coaching classes we have now throughout the week,” he has stated. When a participant defined he was not pushing himself in coaching as a result of he wished to avoid wasting his vitality for match day, De Zerbi’s response was blunt. “If in case you have this method, you’ll by no means turn into a prime participant,” he stated.

De Zerbi is greater than a taskmaster, although. He creates sturdy relationships together with his squads and at Sassuolo, whom he led to eighth place in Serie A in 2020 and 2021, gamers recall their readiness to struggle for him. It was obvious there that doing his bidding may deliver wealthy reward.

Roberto De Zerbi celebrates Sassuolo’s win against Lazio in July 2020
Roberto De Zerbi enjoys Sassuolo’s win in opposition to Lazio in July 2020. He creates sturdy relationships together with his gamers. {Photograph}: Alberto Lingria/Reuters

From 2018 to 2020 Sassuolo acquired greater than €150m from participant gross sales, with De Zerbi’s teaching considered pivotal. His capability to determine and enhance younger expertise is captured in two Sassuolo instances. De Zerbi introduced a 20-year-old Giacomo Raspadori into the primary workforce when nobody trusted a striker now enjoying for Napoli and Italy and considered a nationwide treasure. De Zerbi additionally satisfied Manuel Locatelli to affix from Milan; the midfielder has since joined Juventus and performs for the Azzurri too.

De Zerbi relishes involvement in transfers: learning targets and chatting with gamers to stipulate the challenge and the way they would slot in. The workaholic is sort of scout, agent, director and supervisor rolled into one. Brighton hope they’ve a little bit genius.

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