New Brighton head coach Roberto De Zerbi received a seal of approval for choosing Albion from Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, as the Italian pledged to keep the club on course for their pre-season ambitions of a top-10 Premier League finish
The 43-year-old insisted he picked Brighton over a host of other managerial opportunities and declared himself excited to succeed Graham Potter with the Seagulls.
Brighton deputy chairman Paul Barber branded De Zerbi a “natural fit” to take the club forward after Potter left for Chelsea earlier this month.
Barber and owner Tony Bloom insisted De Zerbi was on a shortlist of one to take the helm, with both club and new coach believing their qualities and vision align.
“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. I think we’re on the same wavelength and I’m sure we can do it well.
“I spoke to Pep on Sunday evening, yes. He’s very happy that I’m on board here. He told me very good things about the club. And he told me that if I need he will be very happy to help me – but of course, not in the match we are playing against them!
“I think the right vision is to try to improve always. And of course, last season ended in ninth so our vision is to stay in the first 10 teams of the league. For me, this is a big challenge. I’m coming to work in the most important league in the world.
“I come here very humble because I know where I’m coming to work. But of course, I come here with my personality, to do what I know to do, bringing here my experiences of what I know to do.”
Brighton owner Bloom hailed former Sassuolo and Shakhtar Donetsk boss De Zerbi’s razor-sharp analysis on the Seagulls, which impressed during interviews.
“Roberto is a really good fit for the club, for the players we have, and the style,” said Bloom. “There’s a lot of similarities between Graham Potter and Roberto, and that was a really important thing for us.
“When we met with Roberto the conversation flowed, it went very well. We’re really confident we’ve got the right head coach for this football club for right now.
“I think Roberto had done his homework, he knew a lot of about the football club in recent years. This was only a few days after Graham had left so I was pretty impressed with the work he had done.
“I think the person is absolutely key; when we hire a head coach, it’s the person, the coach, the personality, the fit with the club. All parts have got to fit correctly, and they absolutely did with Roberto; he’s a natural fit for this club.”
De Zerbi has received FA clearance to start work with the Seagulls, with his work permit approval in the final stages.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine cut short De Zerbi’s stint at Shakhtar, leaving the Italian coach with no choice but to change tack for his career.
“The choice of coaching in Ukraine was mine, I had chances to stay in Serie A but I chose to go to Shakhtar,” said De Zerbi. “I took this decision for the players, the club, the opportunity to play in the Champions League.
“And of course, I was not expecting everything to finish when it did because of the start of [the] conflict. It was bad also to leave something that was going very well. What can I do except keep going to work with the same passion that I have always shown?
“I will always have that experience, at the club and with the people.”
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