In profile: Roberto De Zerbi

We take a look at the career of our new men's first-team head coach.

By Charlie Hanson • 20 September 2022

By Bagu Blanco/Pressinphoto/Shutterstock
Roberto De Zerbi joined Albion on a four year contract.

Roberto De Zerbi was the only coach Albion spoke to when they began the search for Graham Potter’s successor.

But who is the Italian, and what has led to him becoming our new head coach?

The player

Born in Brescia, northern Italy, De Zerbi began his playing career an hour-and-a-half west of his home town with AC Milan. Ultimately he wouldn’t make the breakthrough with the Rossoneri, going out on loan to lower league clubs Monza, Padova and Avellino before joining Salernitana in 2001.

He then moved to Foggia – who he would return to manage – Arezzo, Catania and Napoli, for whom he made his Serie A debut.

By Rex / Shutterstock
Roberto De Zerbi's most recent club was Shakhtar Donetsk.

An attacking midfielder, he wound down his career with CFR Cluj in Romania before returning to Italy in 2013 for a final spell with Trento.

Roberto made nearly 300 league appearances as a player, however he would soon make his mark as a coach.

The coach

De Zerbi has rejected the idea of being a philosopher of the game and says he mixes his own ideas with those of coaches he is inspired by, including Pep Guardiola and Marcelo Bielsa.

Like his predecessor Graham Potter, the 43-year-old got his hands dirty in the lower leagues in Italy. Starting in Serie D – our equivalent of the National League - with Darfo Boario, he made the step up to Serie C with Foggia but missed out on promotion in the play-offs.

His start to life in Serie A with Palermo in 2016 proved to be a baptism of fire. He lasted just 12 weeks, which was longer than his successor Eugenio Corini who resigned after 56 days.

He joined Benevento in October 2017 after they had lost their opening nine league games, having been promoted from Serie B the previous season.

Roberto was unable to stop them from suffering relegation back down to the second tier, but their style of play would earn him and his team plaudits.

Their first point of the season couldn’t have come in more dramatic circumstances, as goalkeeper Alberto Brignoli headed in a 95th minute equaliser in a 2-2 with AC Milan.

They would go on to claim six wins and notably beat AC 1-0 at the San Siro.

Sassuolo were impressed with the job he had done and appointed him as their head coach in 2018, five years after they had been promoted to Serie A for the first time. Over the next three seasons De Zerbi guided them to 11th and two successive eighth-placed finishes.

His final campaign with the Neroverdi saw them miss out on European qualification on goal difference to Jose Mourinho’s Roma who went on to win the Europa Conference League the following season.

Roberto called time on his stay with Sassuolo in 2021, moving to Shaktar Donetsk, where once again his approach earned praise as they defeated Genk and Monaco to reach the group stages of the Champions League.

A 3-0 win over Dynamo Kyiv in the Ukranian Super Cup final saw De Zerbi lift his first piece of silverware as a manager, but hopes of a first league title were brought to an abrupt end with the Russian invasion in February. De Zebri left with his coaching staff a few days after the invasion.