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Brighton chief executive reveals plan to replace Roberto De Zerbi

Brighton's chief executive says he has a plan to replace Roberto De Zerbi after the Italian left the club.

Roberto De Zerbi

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber says the club have a plan to replace Roberto De Zerbi.

The Italian manager left the South Coast at the end of a season despite guiding the Seagulls to their highest-ever league finish in 2022-23.

Brighton also played in the Europa League for the first time this term, although it did appear to impact their domestic form.

De Zerbi had been linked with the Manchester United and Chelsea jobs in the run-up to his departure but he has since said he does not have another position lined up.

Reports suggest the 44-year-old can be difficult to work with and demands control of any transfers, which has led to disagreements behind the scene.

Barber has now confirmed that he has a process when it comes to running the club and it has simply been a case of the two being on different pages when they met to discuss future plans for the Seagulls.

In an exclusive interview with Albion Unlimited, he said: “We worked very hard over the last couple of years to make the relationship [with De Zerbi] as good as it could be.

“But all good things come to an end and it has been a really good two years.

“Obviously the first year was spectacular – it led us to our highest-ever finish and European football.

“This year has been tougher, partly because of all of the extra games.

“But here we are, finishing 11th and feeling a little bit disappointed.

“For Brighton, if you look at our history and our record at the top level, 11th and feeling disappointed is a sign of progress in itself.

“The process that we follow has got us this far and that gives us confidence and belief.

“We are very clear with the way we work and with our coaching staff, including Roberto, and he has been very respectful of the process we follow.”

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Bright future

Barber went on to explain that it is difficult for a club like Brighton to compete with the Premier League’s elite.

They have been able to compete in recent years due to their shrewd recruitment and eye for talent, but as a result, have found themselves victims of poaching from several other clubs.

Chelsea previously signed Graham Potter from the Seagulls and several other key staff have made way.

But the chief executive is not worried about the future and says there is a plan in place to ensure Brighton continue on their upwards trajectory.

He added: “We have to understand that for a club of our size, with revenues of our size, we have to compete in a different way.

“We have found a different way of competing, particularly in terms of player recruitment, and that gives us a bit of an edge.

“It’s not perfect – we are not perfect – so the system itself is still being refined season after season.

“However, it works very well for us. It is not just the last two seasons of relative success – it is what got us to the Premier League and has kept us here.”

“We always try and have a plan. We have got a plan. We now need to execute that plan, but we wanted to make sure that we were being totally respectful to Roberto.

“We don’t wait for a coach to leave before we start the work. Part of our process is to make sure that we always know who the next coach might be.

“Obviously we can’t guarantee it, because we don’t know people’s circumstances at the time the incumbent coach leaves, but we work really hard on our coach homework.

“The fans can be assured that this is work we have been doing for some time.”

Next in line

Brighton’s hunt for a new head coach continues as players wind down at the end of the 2023-24 campaign.

There have been plenty of big names linked with the job, including Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna, who has just guided the Tractor Boys back into the top flight for the first time in 22 years.

Potter has been linked with a return while Nice boss Francesco Farioli is also on Barber’s radar.

Whoever does walk through the door, they will have a tough time replicating the success De Zerbi brought to the South Coast.

The Italian created memories that will stick with Brighton fans forever and despite his abrupt exit, he will always be remembered fondly at the Amex Stadium.

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Mitch Fretton

Mitch is a freelance sports journalist with experience working for LiveScore, GOAL and Colchester United. He has experience working from both his desk at home and in the press box at games covering the Champions League and international football.