Roberto De Zerbi flattered by compliments but says Pep Guardiola is benchmark

·3-min read
Adam Davy/PA Wire

Roberto De Zerbi admits it will be tough for Brighton to be the best footballing team in the world while Pep Guardiola remains in management.

Wolves manager Julen Lopetegui last week attributed that status to the swashbuckling Seagulls before his side suffered a humiliating 6-0 Premier League thrashing at the Amex Stadium.

De Zerbi graciously accepted Lopetegui’s compliment following Saturday’s thumping win but rates Manchester City boss Guardiola and former Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa as the planet’s leading coaches in terms of style of play.

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The Italian is steadfastly committed to his free-flowing vision of the game – insisting it would be easier for Brighton to replace him than for him to change tack – and acknowledges it is impossible without talented players.

“I have to say thanks, I respect a lot him, he’s a great manager,” De Zerbi said of the comments from former Spain, Real Madrid and Sevilla coach Lopetegui.

“I think we are playing well. (Yet) while Guardiola works in football, it’s difficult to play better than his team.

“But I think the credit is not for me, the credit is for my players. When we receive congratulations or these words, the credit is only of our players. I’m lucky to be the head coach, I’m lucky to work with them.

“For me, it’s an honour. I have a good confidence in myself. I think I am a good coach but to play this level of game without great players, I can’t.

“With Guardiola and Marcelo Bielsa, there never can be competition.

“In a game, yes. I would like to win against Guardiola, against Bielsa, but for me it will be never a competition with them because they are the biggest coaches in the world.”

Doubles from Deniz Undav, Pascal Gross and Danny Welbeck earned Brighton a club-record top-flight win against Lopetegui’s stunned visitors.

The victory moved eighth-placed Albion on to 52 points with seven games remaining in their quest to qualify for Europe.

Manchester United visit the south coast on Thursday evening – 11 days after beating the Seagulls on penalties in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

Asked what he would like to see for the reminder of the campaign, De Zerbi said: “Playing like this (against Wolves), working to improve our mentality and play every game like it is the last game in our life.

“Because for us, for the club, for our fans it can be a historical result.”

De Zerbi also urged former Union Saint-Gilloise forward Undav to have greater self-belief following his first goals in English football.

“Undav is one of my biggest problems in Brighton and I want to explain why,” he said.

“He has big potential and he has big quality but it seems like he doesn’t believe in himself.

“And I would like to help him believe more in himself, because he has quality. He has all to be a player in the first XI, but he has to understand faster because the time in football flies.

“Undav is unique in our squad because he scores like a number nine and he has the quality to play like a number 10.”