Brighton chief makes De Zerbi admission amid Milan and Liverpool links: “We are not stupid”

By Oliver Fisher -

Brighton’s Chief Executive Paul Barber believes that Roberto De Zerbi is happy at the club, but also admitted that he is attractive to other sides and may wish to move on at some point.

Since he replaced Graham Potter 18 months ago after the Englishman went to Chelsea, De Zerbi has established himself as one of the most exciting head coaches in Europe, building on the reputation he gained with Sassuolo and Shakhtar Donetsk.

He continues to be linked with vacancies such as the ones at Liverpool, Barcelona and Bayern Munich who are known to be changing head coaches ahead of next season, and it is a testament to the work he has done at Brighton.

Journalists like Alessandro Jacobone have claimed that Milan are interested in De Zerbi and are working quietly to try hire him, given he came through the youth academy of the Rossoneri in the 1990s.

The Italian has spoke regularly about his desire to return to Italy at some point and also the connection that he feels with Milan, the team that he supports in addition to his hometown club Brescia.

Barber spoke to The Athletic and gave a long interview about Brighton’s journey to this point plus their aims moving forward, and he addressed the speculation surrounding De Zerbi.

“We don’t want to lose him, he is an outstanding coach, probably one of the best in the world already, and that is going to make him attractive,” Barber says.

“I think Roberto loves Brighton, he loves the club, the people, the infrastructure that we have, and there is this sense that the work he is doing is good for him as well as for us.

“That still means at some point in the future he may choose to take that skill base that he has elsewhere – we understand that.

“It is the most unusual experience I’ve had in my career. A lot of time the chairman or chief executive will be speaking publicly to give their coach some air cover, setting expectations at a reasonable level in the hope they are exceeded.

“Roberto is the opposite. He comes to me and says, ‘Why are you talking about top 10, why don’t you talk about top six?’. It’s the first time in my club career that I am almost encouraged by the head coach to push expectations publicly. He believes that will drive the players, the staff, all of us to be even better.”

“Roberto is doing a fantastic job. The evolution from the work Graham did, which was outstanding, on top of the work Chris did, which was outstanding, has taken us to another level.

“With that comes more risk, on and off the field. On the pitch, we have a very open, attacking style of play and occasionally that will be unpicked.

“Off the field, because what he is doing is so attractive and high profile, it then creates risk for us differently in that Roberto becomes very desirable — but we are aware of that.

“The better we do, the higher profile our people become on and off the field, and ironically the more vulnerable we become to losing them.

“But we know that and we are not stupid. We understand it, but we are confident in our ability to keep people. The contracts are good, the mechanisms to secure the contracts are good.

“If people are poached they don’t go quickly, or cheaply in some cases, and we always look to a plan that we have in place for that eventuality.”


Tags AC Milan Roberto De Zerbi


  1. I’m not a fan of Di Zerbi and it could be a big mistake for Milan to sign him. Brighton has conceded has many goals that they have scored this season.

    That means Di Zerbi style of play is too risky and he has no balance in defense which is surprising for an Italian coach.

    If we look at Milan current form of conceding goals we are on the same level with Brighton which is really bad.

    Di Zerbi is not an upgrade to Pioli and if Milan want to win now they should invest in Conte and give him the quality players he needs if not then we should go for Motta and build on what we already have built under Pioli and within the next 2 seasons we can be strong Serie A title contenders.

    1. You do realise that Brighton is overachieving in a way more competitive league and exept west ham is only behind far superior teams in term of investment, while they are also in European competition and losing key players. While Milan on the other hand is underachieving especially in last years League campaign.

    2. Give Conte the quality player he need ? For what ? For knocked out in CL group ? Conte often finish 4th or 3th in CL group. CL give money more than serie A income. Conte need heavy investment to win scudetto while pioli ( ACM coach ) and later simone inzaghi ( IM coach)dont need heavy investment to win the same title but with greater achievement in CL . Dont forget Conte causing chaotic in dressing room if he is not satisfied

  2. For those people saying DeZebri isn’t doing well in the Prem just by looking at the standings, I’d say you need to understand the context of what’s really going on. First off he doesn’t have the quality of squad that the teams above him possess. It like taking the current Sassuolo minus Berardi and bringing them to the Prem and sit 8th. There’s no big name in his team compared to everyone above him which has at least one star and multiple big names or expensive signings. The only player he really has that HAD a name was Ansu Fati and even he doesn’t play much and whose stock is not what it used to be
    On top of that they sold their best players over the summer and didn’t replace them with similar quality. It’s basically a team of unknown names sitting 5 points behind Man Utd. And yet if some of the draws went his team’s way he’d be contending for a UEL spot. He also has less losses than the 3 teams above him. Teams fear his team including City when they played him, so they set up shop. I’m not saying he should benour next coach, just that it’s odd seeing ppl trash him as a coach in a league where every other team has better squads.
    (Fyi I don’t care for a coaching change much less for Conte either)

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