It’s been a year since Roberto de Zerbi took the Brighton job. Upon arrival in the south of England, the tactician came under scrutiny from experts for not knowing enough about “our game”, even though no British manager has ever won the English Premier League. The truth is that De Zerbi never cared what others thought anyway.
Brighton fans have also learned how to filter out the noise. For the first time in 122 years, their team hosted the first official UEFA match. All this after clinching sixth place in the Premier League, defeating a group of big-name stars along the way, including Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal. Despite domestic success, the UEFA Europa League is a major step forward for the club, which was once sold for £100 ($122.90) to avoid liquidation. Twenty-six years later, this seaside town cast its nets into European waters. Everything is under De Zerbi’s watch.
De Zerbi’s soccer IQ propelled Brighton FC to Europe. Is he the best coach under 50?
Incredibly, the talented Italian has achieved this while overseeing the departure of Brighton’s best players. The club has spent £363 million (approx. sales of US$). While most coaches make money by signing high-profile players, De Zerbi has continued to do well, undaunted by the glory-seeking elite poaching their most important players.
Been there, done that. At Sassuolo, De Zerbi stoically learned how to stay focused in the face of distractions. During his three-year spell in Emilia-Romagna, a number of future stars were poached by Inter Milan, Lazio, Fiorentina and Juventus. Despite being constantly toyed with, De Zerbi’s brave brand of high-octane football continued to dominate Serie A’s top teams, with a focus on nurturing new talent and recycling second-hand goods. Ta. Simply using similar parts, neroverdi The machine ran at full capacity and recorded an 8th place finish for two consecutive years from 2019 to 2021.
In 2022, when Chelsea paid Graham Potter’s £21 million (approximately $25.8 million) release fee, Brighton chairman Tony Bloom decided to use De Zerbi as the club negotiated the sale of their precious jewel. Wisely identified as a suitable candidate for employment. “We are particularly impressed with what Roberto has achieved at Sassuolo, achieving back-to-back top half finishes for a relatively small club,” Barber admitted after his appointment was confirmed.
So Brighton is to the English Premier League what Sassuolo is to Serie A, two clubs striving to be the best among others. And this is exactly what de Zerbi has achieved on a personal level.
In August, UEFA announced the winner of the Men’s Coach of the Year award at the Champions League group stage draw ceremony. Josep Guardiola’s victory was a formality, but De Zerbi was part of the peloton, finishing fourth ahead of Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta, but ahead of Napoli’s Luciano Spalletti’s historic feat and Simone Inzaghi’s late-season crescendo narrowly cost him a podium finish. Inter advanced to the Champions League final.
It was official. De Zerbi emerged as one of Europe’s elite managers and took the Premier League by storm, but many expected him to fail miserably in that very competition.
Respond to criticism on the field
Graham Souness assured listeners in September 2022: “I think it’s a risk,” a talkSPORT pundit has claimed. “We’re going to bring in someone who doesn’t know our game. Listen, he went to the interview, so he spent a few hours on the internet and got as much information as he could. It’s a work of genius. Not.”
In 2022, due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, De Zerbi was allowed to leave his position at Shakhtar Donetsk, but that did not stop Souness. “I think it’s a risk to bring seven jobs in nine years on your resume. If you’re a good coach, people will want to keep you.”
Despite a failed six-match managerial job with Turin in Serie A, the 70-year-old Scot remained complacent, saying: “They’re trying to appoint a manager who has no background in the English game. You don’t know anything about the league, you don’t know the players…That’s a big risk.”
No one in England saw him coming. Despite the naysayers’ chatter, de Zerbi continued to believe in himself. The former attacking midfielder, who was recognized by UEFA for his role in turning a team from nobody to a force, is leading the next wave of top-flight managers.
Under 50 discussion
Why should De Zerbi be rated so highly compared to other managers under 50? Arsenal with Mikel Arteta (41), Xavi (43) and Simone Inzaghi (47) , Barcelona and Inter’s respective successes have been helped by working for top companies, but his main worry is resolving major ego conflicts at home. Changing room. Clubs like Brighton and Sassuolo have come up with exit strategies to break through Erik ten Hag’s high press, building systems that lead to 30 passes and goals involving Pascal Gross and Tariq Lamptey, or Manuel Locatelli and Domenico.・Berardi and Giak Raspadri become Euro 2020 champions.
Some coaches may peak too early. Andre Villas-Boas obtained his UEFA Pro License as a teenager under the tutelage of Sir Bobby Robson, and rapidly rose through the ranks as Jose Mourinho’s assistant throughout his 20s, before taking on senior Premier League duties. He joined Chelsea for a total of two and a half years. And Tottenham. By his mid-30s, he had regressed to the Russian and Chinese leagues.
work toward something big
In 2023, the battle for the podium was extremely fierce. Some might argue that Inzaghi didn’t deserve to be a part of Inter’s underwhelming performance in Serie A. Meanwhile, Spalletti’s silver medal for leading Napoli to glory was fully deserved, and the recognition for the 64-year-old is long overdue.
But unlike Josep Guardiola’s glittering career at profligate Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City, De Zerbi’s progress has come through patience and perseverance. The two are complete opposites. De Zerbi develops tomorrow’s instant stars, but Guardiola’s career depends on recruiting them and taking them to the next level.
The gap at the top is quite large. At the time of writing, Guardiola, 52, has managed 162 games in Europe, losing 26 and averaging 2.10 points per game (PPM). De Zerbi, who has always faced tough battles against smaller teams, has recorded three wins, three draws, and five losses, with an average of 1.09 ppm. This takes into account a 3-2 loss to AEK Athens in a difficult group that included Marseille and Ajax.
At home, Brighton fans will be eager for a chance to win FA Cup silver. Currently in fifth place in the Premier League with four wins from five games, De Zerbi will have the chance to make his presence felt by stealing another result from Guardiola in October.
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