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Brighton bracing themselves for inevitable Roberto De Zerbi departure – who can take his place?

Brighton & Hove Albion CEO Paul Barber acknowledged the possibility of losing high-performing manager Roberto De Zerbi yesterday.

His skills have been in high demand after a doing stellar job at the Amex Stadium, leading to inevitable talk speculation about his future.

During an interview with talkSPORT, Barber opened up on the risk of letting ‘big guns’ deprive the club of the Italian’s services, as Chelsea did with Graham Potter last year.

The 44-year-old came to take the wheel at the overachieving club when everyone thought they had reached their pinnacle, a point from which everything would fall apart. 

It’s how it was supposed to be for a team made of up-and-coming talents seeking their place under the sun and experienced veterans who no longer had a part at top clubs. 

However, the former Sassuolo and Shakhtar Donetsk boss achieved the unthinkable. 

His tactical prowess and ability to motivate his players and get the best out of them steered Brighton to their first-ever European season, turning them into one of the most exciting teams on the island. 

De Zerbi’s understanding of the game, his insistence on building from the back and his team’s eye-pleasing football have quickly gained attention from Europe’s elite clubs. 

Back in his homeland, AC Milan and Napoli have emerged as interested parties, while Tottenham Hotspur harboured slim hopes of hiring him in the summer before poaching Ange Postecoglou. 

Although the Seagulls are having a rough patch in the Premier League, going winless in their last six league matches, De Zerbi remains a person of interest. 

There’s this overwhelming feeling that he won’t be in charge of Brighton beyond next summer. But as Barber admitted, the club will have a replacement in place when the time comes.

He failed to disclose a name, so we’ll try to figure out who could fill De Zerbi’s shoes. 

Francesco Farioli 

If there’s anyone familiar with De Zerbi’s methods, it’s Francesco Farioli.

The 34-year-old, who has come a long way from being dismissed as a Fatih Karagumruk flop to making Nice genuine Ligue 1 title contenders, used to work by the Italian’s side between 2018 and 2020.

At 31, he was the youngest manager in Europe’s pro leagues at the time of his appointment at Karagumruk, which could explain his relatively underwhelming stint at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium.

It’s not like he set the benchmark high for young tacticians during his two-year spell at Alanyaspor, but stars seem to have aligned for the Italian in the French Riviera.

Los Aiglons are not just one point adrift of French juggernauts Paris Saint-Germain. They’re the only side yet to lose a league game in Europe’s top-five divisions this season.

Farioli bases his tactics on possession and quick transitions like De Zerbi. Yet his view of football differs from his mentor in the defensive aspect, as witnessed by Nice’s mere four goals conceded. 

Arne Slot

If Arne Slot turned down an offer to assume the managerial reins at Tottenham in the summer, you’d think Brighton should stand no chance of changing his mind.

The highly-rated Feyenoord boss comes from a plethora of super-talented Dutch managers, the worshipers of Johan Crujiff’s football philosophy.

Looking back at Slot’s decision to reject Spurs’ approach and sign a new contract at De Kuip months after leading De Stadionclub to their first Eredivisie title since 2016/17 makes perfect sense.

For a young manager still trying to climb to the top, accepting a hot seat in north London would’ve brought unnecessary scrutiny and exposed him to intense media pressure.

While he chose to stay in his comfort zone, Slot gives the impression of being an ambitious character so it stands to reason he’ll aspire to take his career to a new level at some point in the future. 

As an advocate of high-pressing football and direct style of play, he’d fit Brighton’s requirements to a ‘T’. 

Thiago Motta

Even during his playing days, Thiago Motta built a reputation as a hard-working individual who is not afraid to get his hands dirty to win a game of football. 

Nothing has changed since he delved into the realm of management, except maybe he has improved his communication skills if sources close to his current club Bologna were to be trusted. 

Keeping a lowly Spezia in Serie A was no small feat, as evidenced by the club’s immediate relegation to the second tier upon parting ways with the Brazilian-born tactician at the end of 2021/22.

Leaving the Ligurian side proved a blessing in disguise as Motta soon took charge of Bologna after the tragic passing of Sinisa Mihajlovic. 

After a mid-table finish in his first season at Renato Dall’Ara, the 41-year-old has seemingly instilled his mentality in Emilia-Romagna.

Bologna were eighth in the Serie A table ahead of the November international break, only three points below fourth-placed Napoli after only conceding ten goals in 12 league fixtures.

Motta’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation relies on aggressive pressing and fast breaks without neglecting defensive duties. 

That same set-up helped De Zerbi’s Brighton secure European qualification last season. See where we’re going with this?

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