Showing posts with label Roberto De Zerbi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Roberto De Zerbi. Show all posts

6 June 2023

Roberto De Zerbi - football coach

Left turmoil in Ukraine to achieve success in England

Roberto De Zerbi made his name as coach at Sassuolo in Serie A
Roberto De Zerbi made his name
as coach at Sassuolo in Serie A
The football coach Roberto De Zerbi, who helped the English Premier League club Brighton and Hove Albion qualify for a European competition for the first time in their history, was born on this day in 1979 in Brescia.

De Zerbi, who was unknown to many British football fans before he arrived on the south coast of England in September, 2022, guided his new team to seventh place in the Premier League table, earning the club a place in the UEFA Europa League for the 2023-24 season.

The club had hired him to succeed Graham Potter, who left Brighton to take over at Chelsea. De Zerbi’s first win as the new man in charge was against Potter’s Chelsea.

De Zerbi, who retired as a player in 2013, did not find significant success as a coach until he took over at Sassuolo, a team from a town just outside Modena in Emilia-Romagna which became a Serie A club in 2013, having never previously played in the top division of Italian football in its 103-year history.

His club before he joined Brighton had been Shakhtar Donetsk, one of the two biggest clubs in Ukraine, but his time there ended abruptly because of the war between Ukraine and Russia.

Donetsk, an industrial city in the eastern part of the country, lies at the heart of the disputed Donbas region, to which pro-Russian separatists had already laid claim before the Russian invasion began and witnessed fighting before the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

De Zerbi described how he had enjoyed a normal training session with the Shakhtar players the day before the invasion in February 2022 and 24 hours later was forced to take cover in the basement of his hotel as the Russian army began shelling the city.

De Zerbi made his Serie A debut as a player with Napoli
De Zerbi made his Serie A
debut as a player with Napoli
He was praised for remaining in the city long enough to ensure all the club’s foreign players were given safe passage out of the country and back to their home nations, or to safe areas of Europe.  After five days he returned to Italy himself, although his contract in Ukraine was not formally cancelled until July.

Donetsk were top of the Ukraine Premier League and had qualified for the group stages of the UEFA Champions League when football was suspended, having already beaten arch rivals Dynamo Kiev to win the Ukraine Super Cup.

De Zerbi was a talented attacking midfielder as a player, although he had a relatively modest career. After starting out with a local youth team in the Mompiano district of Brescia, he was spotted by AC Milan in 1995 and spent the next three years in their development squad, known as the primavera.

After turning professional in 1998, he spent the next four years on loan with various clubs in Serie C - the third tier of Italian football - before Milan decided to move him on, never having given him a chance in their first team. 

After the disappointment in Milan, De Zerbi teamed up with Foggia, winning promotion to Serie C1, forming a good relationship with coach Pasquale Marino, with whom he later teamed up at Catania as the Sicilian club won promotion to Serie A in 2006.

His success in Sicily, where his technical skills and goalscoring ability made him a popular player, earned him a move to Napoli, who he also helped win promotion to Serie A. Unfortunately, the opportunity to establish himself as a Serie A player never came

Manuel Locatelli, now with Juventus, won his first Italy caps at Sassuolo
Manuel Locatelli, now with Juventus,
won his first Italy caps at Sassuolo
After another couple of loan moves within Italy, De Zerbi moved to Romania to join CFR Cluj, where he enjoyed his biggest success as a player, winning the Romanian league and cup double and making his debut in the Champions League. Returning to Italy in 2012, he had one more season as a player, with lower league club Trento, before announcing his retirement. 

As a coach, he took his first steps with Darfo Boario, another club close to his home town of Brescia before returning to Foggia and gaining his first experience of Serie A with Palermo and Benevento, although without success.

But his talent came to the fore at Sassuolo, who had been promoted to Serie A in 2013 and where he received plaudits for twice finishing in eighth place, missing out on European qualification only on goal difference in the 2020-21 season. He also established his reputation for improving players through his coaching, helping striker Domenico Berardi and midfielder Manuel Locatelli become international players.

His possession-based, attacking style of play and his meticulous attention to detail in his training programmes were strongly influenced by the all-conquering Manchester City coach, Pep Guardiola, and by one of Guardiola’s own influences, the former Leeds United coach Marcelo Bielsa.

As he was learning his trade, De Zerbi went to the French club Lille to observe Bielsa’s methods and to Bayern Munich in Germany to watch Guardiola at close quarters.

De Zerbi attributes his success as a coach partly to his passion for football, which he says he inherited from his father, Alfredo, although that passion has several times landed him in trouble with referees. During his first season at Brighton, he was red-carded twice for his behaviour on the touchline.

On his appointment, De Zerbi was the 14th Italian to be appointed coach of an English Premier League team, four of whom - Carlo Ancelotti and Antonio Conte (both with Chelsea), Roberto Mancini (Manchester City) and Claudio Ranieri (Leicester City) - have seen their teams crowned champions.

Brescia's beautiful Piazza della Loggia is an elegant square with Venetian influences
Brescia's beautiful Piazza della Loggia is an
elegant square with Venetian influences
Travel tip:

Brescia, where De Zerbi was born and grew up, is a city of artistic and architectural importance. The second biggest city in Lombardia, after Milan, it has Roman remains and well-preserved Renaissance buildings but is not as well-known to tourists as the other historic Italian cities. Brescia became a Roman colony before the birth of Christ and you can still see remains from the forum, theatre and a temple. The town was fought over by different rulers in the Middle Ages but came under the protection of Venice in the 15th century. There is a distinct Venetian influence in the architecture of the Piazza della Loggia, an elegant square in the centre of the town, which has a clock tower remarkably similar to the one in Saint Mark’s square in Venice. Next to the 17th century Duomo is an older cathedral, the unusually shaped Duomo Vecchio, also known as la Rotonda. The Santa Giulia Museo della Citta covers more than 3000 years of Brescia’s history, housed within the Benedictine Nunnery of San Salvatore and Santa Giulia in Via Musei. The nunnery was built over a Roman residential quarter, but some of the houses, with their original mosaics and frescoes, have now been excavated and can be seen.

The facade of the Este family's Ducal Palace in Sassuolo, which is just outside Modena
The facade of the Este family's Ducal Palace in
Sassuolo, which is just outside Modena
Travel tip:

Sassuolo, which stands on the Secchia river some 17km (11 miles) southwest of the city of Modena in Emilia-Romagna, is best known as an industrial centre, the heart of Italy’s tile industry, although its profile within Italy has also been raised by the football club’s success.  The town was run for many years by the Este family, whose legacy can be seen in the Ducal Palace, built on the site of a mediaeval castle. Obtained by Niccolò III d'Este in the 15th century, it was converted into a court residence by Borso d'Este in 1458, while the present building was commissioned in the early 17th century by the Duke Francesco I d'Este and built by Bartolomeo Avanzini. The palace is now owned by the town of Sassuolo and the Gallerie Estensi, a network of galleries established to preserve the historic heritage left by the Este family.

Also on this day:

1513: The Battle of Novara

1772: The birth of Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily

1861: The death of Camillo Benso Cavour, Italy’s first prime minister

1896: The birth of Fascist commander Italo Balbo

1926: The birth of automobile engineer Giotto Bizzarrini