Brighton is anticipating the departure of Roberto De Zerbi. He has connections with several prominent European clubs that may soon be in the market for a manager. He only joined the Seagulls last season after the previous manager at Brighton departed.

De Zerbi took over for the outgoing Graham Potter, who left for Chelsea, in September 2022. Many people assumed Brighton would struggle in the absence of Graham Potter.

However, since De Zerbi took over as coach, the club has gone from strength to strength, and they are now enjoying their first-ever European campaign. In his first season at the helm, he led Brighton to the UEFA Europa League and received much acclaim for the team’s attractive brand of play.

De Zerbi became available for hire when the conflict in Ukraine resulted in the termination of his contract with Shakhtar Donetsk. Although he was unknown at the top level of coaching when initially appointed, Brighton is already familiar with him.

Could Brighton resist big clubs knocking on the door for De Zerbi?

Paul Barber, CEO of Brighton, confirmed that the Italian was the club’s first choice to replace Graham Potter. This was the case before the Englishman resigned from his post. Now, Barber is hopeful the 44-year-old will stay for an extended period. Regardless, the chief executive acknowledged Brighton is ready for any event.

Barber recognized a number of the best clubs in the world are watching the former Sassuolo boss. Back in Italy, Napoli and AC Milan, are keeping an eye on the Italian mastermind.

It goes without saying that Stefano Pioli has been walking on eggshells recently at San Siro. Milan has had inconsistent performances after reaching the Champions League semifinal last season. For Napoli, the current Serie A champions recently re-hired Walter Mazzarri after sacking Rudi Garcia.

Some of Europe’s top teams, such as Real Madrid, want the Italian head coach. There have even been rumblings that Manchester City have already tabbed him as Pep Guardiola’s successor, as mentioned by The Sun.

What did Brighton’s CEO say?

The Seagulls’ CEO told talkSPORT that the club is constantly on guard against larger clubs trying to lure away the Italian boss.

“Good players and good staff will always be looked at by competitors, and we’re prepared for that, we’re realistic about that and we try to plan for those eventualities. When we unfortunately lost Graham Potter to Chelsea it was a difficult period, because you don’t want to lose your head coach one month into the season. We always have a small list of coaches that we would look to move to if we had to, Roberto was top of that list.

“So far things have worked really well, we’re enjoying what Roberto is doing for us and what this squad of players is delivering. Roberto has done a fabulous job and I don’t think anyone in world football hasn’t seen the way he plays and the way we play.

“But I take that as a big compliment to the progress we’re making and it’s incumbent on me to make sure we’ve got succession plans in place to manage and overcome those bumps in the road because at the end of the day, every football club will lose players and staff at some point, we just have to make sure we’re ready and prepared for it when it happens to us.”

Brighton has a plan if De Zerbi leaves

Barber then added, “Absolutely,” when asked whether Brighton had a backup plan in place in case a major club comes knocking for De Zerbi.

“That’s part and parcel of looking at the top 20 or 25 positions in our club all the time and identifying who’s vulnerable to being taken by somebody else or who may simply just want a change in lifestyle and making sure we know if that happened who would be coming in to replace them. That might be an internal appointment or an external appointment, but the most important thing is that we have an idea who it would be.

“There’s nothing worse than suddenly facing a change and then having a gap because you haven’t done the homework to consider who would replace that person. Preparation is critical. But we protect ourselves as far as we can contractually and financially, and also we try to create an environment where our best people want to stay with us, and that’s served us well over many years now, but we’re also realistic when they want to move on.”