De Zerbi vows to ‘smoke more cigarettes’ with no job lined up following Brighton exit

News Desk
Roberto De Zerbi discusses leaving Brighton
Roberto De Zerbi discusses leaving Brighton

Departing Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi says he does not have a new job lined up but is hoping to be in work by the start of the 2024/25 campaign.

But the Italian is content to smoke cigarettes and “watch 100 games per week” as he awaits a fresh opportunity.

Brighton have already begun the process of identifying De Zerbi’s successor after agreeing to end his contract two years early.

The 44-year-old, who insisted he does not have another job lined up amid reports linking him to several top European clubs, ended his history-making tenure at the Amex Stadium with Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to Manchester United.

“For sure, if I have to stay at home three, four, five months, it should be not a problem because I will work,” said De Zerbi.

“I will work studying different games, different teams, the style of different coaches.

“Football is in development, every year it is different and you have to keep the level if you want to stay at the top.

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“Without football, it’s not so easy for me but I will smoke more cigarettes! I hope to find the solution before the season starts. But at the moment, there isn’t any team.

“Yes, I hope to work but otherwise I will watch 100 games per week, more or less, waiting for the next chance, the next solution.”

De Zerbi led Brighton to the last 16 of the Europa League and 11th position in the Premier League this term following an unprecedented sixth-placed finish and an FA Cup semi-final appearance last season.

He opted to leave Sussex as his vision for the future did not align with that of owner Tony Bloom.

Albion chief executive Paul Barber concedes it will be tough to replace a “top coach” but says the club do not put limitations on what can be achieved.

“We’re realistic about the relative success we’ve had in the last couple of seasons,” said Barber.

“But we’re still ambitious and we don’t feel there’s a ceiling to what we can do. He is a top coach and someone that we knew a lot about before he came here.

“He more than met our expectations, particularly in the first season. He will be difficult to replace, for sure. We don’t wait for a coach to leave before we start work.

“Part of our process is to make sure we always know who the next coach might be. You can’t guarantee because you don’t know people’s circumstances at the time the incumbent coach leaves but we work really hard on our coach homework.”

Barber referenced an incident after Brighton’s 1-0 Europa League victory away to AEK Athens in November to exemplify De Zerbi’s “unquenchable thirst” for the game.

Barber believes the former Shakhtar Donetsk coach possesses the attributes to manage one of football’s leading clubs.

“He’s certainly got the tactical nous and awareness, he’s got the motivational skills with the players,” said Barber.

“He’s got an incredible passion and knowledge of football. We were in the bowels of the stadium in Athens, he gets on the coach and the first thing he does is open his laptop to watch another game.

“The passion to see more, learn more, be ready for the next game, it’s an almost like an unquenchable thirst.

“Football is his life, he’s sacrificed a lot to be the best coach he can be. Could he coach at a top club? He’s got all of the attributes.”

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