Premier League

Roberto De Zerbi’s Liverpool audition won’t come at Anfield


Roberto De Zerbi’s stock since joining Brighton & Hove Albion has shot right through the roof.

The Seagulls took a calculated punt to bring in the fiery and free-thinking Italian, the exact kind of gamble a mid-table club with higher aspirations should be making. He has passed every rational expectation set of him – Brighton are now a team with an evolving but clear identity who have made their mark on the domestic and continental game.

Even though the Seagulls have not hit the same heights in the Premier League this season compared to last, De Zerbi has at least ensured they are still in with a real chance of qualifying for Europe again, all the while battling an injury crisis which has gone under the radar, his previous success making the current job look a near-failure.

Taking a step back and recognising these achievements, De Zerbi is clearly a worthy candidate to succeed Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, but of the serious contenders for the job, he carries the most risk.


Klopp has spoken glowingly of De Zerbi / GLYN KIRK/GettyImages

Brighton travel to Anfield in the Premier League on Sunday, with plenty of focus on De Zerbi’s credentials after Xabi Alonso ruled himself out of the running. But ultimately, his audition will not come this weekend.

The Italian is unbeaten in his four games against Liverpool so far, including a manic 3-3 draw during his first game in charge of Brighton in this fixture last season. He’s claimed several scalps during his time with the Seagulls. It’s no great secret what a great tactician he is, but similar can be said about his and his team’s combustibility.

De Zerbi’s Brighton stick to their principles and do not change. In a way, they’re reminiscent of Klopp’s first iteration of Liverpool – the carefree attackers who pinned their hopes on the likes of Dejan Lovren and Simon Mignolet to keep the ball out at the other end. Unfortunately, Liverpool are now a long way from that state and do not want to regress back to it in the post-Klopp era.

The other frontrunners for the job – notably Ruben Amorim and Julian Nagelsmann – have at least demonstrated they can succeed sustainably without going gung-ho. There are fewer top-level gambles on coaches like De Zerbi anymore while they stand by their all-or-nothing style.

That isn’t to say De Zerbi is not deserving of an elite job or won’t even get the Liverpool one. He’s in the discussions for this role, plus those at Bayern Munich and Barcelona, for good reason. It’s just he carries the most…

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