De Zerbi For PM: Brighton Boss Has Skills That Would Put Our Politicians To Shame

The Moises Caicedo saga was De Zerbi's latest big win
14:34, 03 Feb 2023

It is such a shame Roberto De Zerbi is Italian. Otherwise there would be a genuine case for Brighton & Hove Albion’s manager to run the country.

OK, most of us could do a better job than Rishi Sunak but at every turn since his arrival in the UK, De Zerbi has shown remarkable skills to put most politicians to shame.

The latest being his remarkably firm stance over midfielder Moises Caicedo, withstanding repeated pressure from Arsenal to defy expectation and hold onto his best player during the January transfer window.


While the world’s football agents have been toasting the £815 million tossed away by Premier League clubs during the January transfer window, perhaps the most impressive bit of business was the deal that didn’t happen.

Any man at a medium-sized club who can tell Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta where to go and turn down £75m for one player has got balls of steel. 

Economic policy and solving the cost of living crisis? A five-minute job for Albion’s unflinching leader. 

Yet he has also been showing quiet compassion for an ambitious young man who understandably wants to reach the top in his career.

The train, teacher and NHS strikes? Sorted by lunchtime. 

Arsenal made two bids for Ecuadorian World Cup star Caicedo and were not afraid to let the world know about it. And with the player’s agent only too happy to go along for the ride and demand a move, it wasn’t long before things started getting messy.

A Friday night public plea to leave by a player whose head was shot just 36 hours before a home game against Liverpool could easily have put even a top-flight club into a tailspin. It certainly took Brighton’s top brass by surprise.


And who then didn’t suspect that by Tuesday’s 11pm transfer deadline, Arsenal would have their man, like they shoehorned Caicedo’s team-mate Leandro Trossard out of Sussex and up to north London?

De Zerbi was having none of it and went through his man-management playbook to subtly win this latest battle.

Mixed-up Caicedo was ordered to stay away from the club for a few days to cool off. A PR masterstroke as the players were off on Monday and Tuesday anyway following Sunday’s FA Cup victory against Liverpool. 

In the meantime, Brighton’s astute head coach got to work convincing his hot-headed South American that while he may miss out on a move to Arsenal now, come the end of the season, who knows what offers will come his way? Arsenal, Manchester City, maybe even Real Madrid?

By doing so, De Zerbi cleverly talked his player round while standing his ground against wave after wave of pressure to sell - something Brighton owner Tony Bloom hates doing in winter.

Insiders at Brighton’s Amex Stadium insist De Zerbi would never stand in the way of a young player’s dreams of success. If he thought this would be Caicedo’s only chance things may have turned out differently.

The sale of Trossard was different. The Belgian only had six months left on his contract. It was a case of cash in or wave goodbye in June for nothing.

The overriding image of Brighton now is of a club on the up. They will not be pushed around by bigger teams or by agents looking for a fast slice of commission. They sit eighth in the Premier League. European qualification is a realistic prospect and they are through to the fifth round of the FA Cup.

De Zerbi was clearly on Bloom’s radar before previous manager Graham Potter was lured to Chelsea last September. But it is a happy accident that saw him land on the south coast and not only pick up where Potter left off but develop Brighton even further.

The job of keeping Caicedo onside after his big January move was denied him could be a tough one, but it’s safe to bet on De Zerbi pulling it off and selling him for £80m come May.

Incidentally, Boris Johnson was born in New York and still got to be Prime Minister. A British citizen can apply to be PM after living here for five years. De Zerbi has done four months already. Just saying.

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