Brighton’s biggest management rival spotted having lunch with Pep Guardiola as Albion talks progressed

Roberto de Zerbe is one of the main contenders for the vacant managerial position at English Premier League club Brighton
Roberto de Zerbe is one of the main contenders for the vacant managerial position at English Premier League club Brighton

Roberto de Zerbe has been closely linked with the role of Albion after Graham Potter and his management team left Brighton last week and joined Chelsea.

De Zerbe, 43, is one of the names under consideration from the Brighton board and it is believed the club will hold discussions with the Italian this week.

The former Shakhtar Donetsk coach is out of work, having had to leave the Ukrainian club after the Russian invasion.

De Zerbi made his name in Serie A with Sassuolo and earned a reputation for improving existing players, developing young talents, and playing an engaging style. All qualities that appeal to Albion decision makers.

De Zerbe was seen last week having lunch in Italy with Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola, Italian midfielder Daniele De Rossi and former City star Aleksandar Kolarov.

It is believed that Kolarov, who has extensive experience in the Premier League, could join De Zerbe as an assistant in any future role.

Guardiola had previously praised De Zerbe’s style as coach and said last year: “Italian football will always have the element of defending and responding, because that is an aspect that is admired abroad and part of your culture.

“But with Arrigo Sacchi’s revolution and coaches in recent times like Maurizio Sarri and Roberto de Zerbe, there are teams that play the ball more and therefore also give up more.”

De Zerbe also praised Guardiola, as the Italian previously said: “It is better to lose the Champions League final with Guardiola than to win it with someone else.”

Brighton chief executive and vice-chairman Paul Barber insists the search for a new head coach is in full swing and the club hope to set a fast date as it will give time for any new coach to work with the players ahead of their next game at Liverpool. On October 1.

“There has definitely been a lot of interest and I’m not surprised,” Barber said.

“Partly because in the past three years, perhaps since we’ve already joined the Premier League, the image of the club has changed dramatically.

“I think the style of football we played means we have won a lot of fans over the past few years.

And as a result, we’ve already attracted a lot of attention that we probably wouldn’t have maybe three years ago, let alone five or ten years ago.

“It is a credit to Graham but also credit to the way the club has developed over the past decade and the influence of the Chairman and his vision for the club that have put us in this position now where we will have a lot of options.”