This detailed article goes in-depth on the Biography of Roberto De Zerbi, providing insights into his early years, familial background, including his father, Alfredo De Zerbi, and his family life with his wife, Elisa De Zerbi, and their children.
The account delves into De Zerbi’s Italian heritage, his hometown, educational background, religious beliefs, and more. It also uncovers details about his lifestyle, net worth, personality traits, and salary specifics as an emerging football coach.
Essentially, this life account meticulously traces the comprehensive journey of Roberto De Zerbi. It seeks to unravel the life tale of a young lad from Mompiano, Italy, whose parents were engaged in selling Rotowash and floor-cleaning apparatuses.
A child whose father, Alfredo, managed to rally many supporters at the Mario Rigamonti Stadium with his persuasive skills.
This narrative by SoccerBiography tells the story of an ex-professional footballer who, inspired by Pep Guardiola, embarked on a coaching career. Guardiola, the current Manchester City manager, repeatedly acknowledges De Zerbi, who once confessed to SkySport that Guardiola was his coaching inspiration.
When De Zerbi initiated his coaching venture, he felt it was necessary to learn from his mentor, Guardiola, during his tenure at Bayern Munich. A picture that once became viral online disclosed an interesting fact that many football enthusiasts were unaware of – the intriguing camaraderie between De Zerbi and Guardiola.
This in-depth narrative presents the biography of Roberto De Zerbi, a football coaching prodigy who captivated the Premier League soon after his advent in 2022. De Zerbi holds firm beliefs in his football philosophy, and SoccerBiography outlines his unique standing among fellow managers.
We start by revealing details about De Zerbi’s childhood. Following this, SoccerBiography navigates through significant milestones of his football career with Napoli and other Italian clubs.
Ultimately, the account examines the circumstances that led to him being recognized as one of Italy’s most esteemed football managers.
SoccerBiography intends to kindle your interest as we invite you to delve into De Zerbi’s biography. Indeed, the young lad from Mompiano has made considerable strides in his incredible football journey.
Known for his innovative coaching methods and scholarly approach, De Zerbi garnered attention during the 2022/2023 season when he steered Brighton to their first Europa League qualification – a historic achievement for the club.
Following this feat, De Zerbi became the talk of the town among football commentators. Even the famed Pep Guardiola was generous in his accolades for him.
In our ongoing series about the life stories of Premier League managers, we noticed some gaps – certain untold episodes.
Interestingly, not many football lovers have explored the fascinating biography of Roberto De Zerbi. Given its engrossing narrative, it’s a tale that deserves to be heard. Hence, let’s waste no more time and begin the journey.
Diving into Roberto De Zerbi’s Biography:
Commonly known by endearing nicknames such as “Robi”, “Robo”, and “The Little Genius”, Roberto De Zerbi was born on the sixth day of June 1979.
His parents are Mr. Alfredo De Zerbi, his father, and his relatively unknown mother, both hailing from Brescia, Italy. It’s crucial to mention that Alfredo was not just a father to Roberto, but also his first football coach, guide, and greatest supporter.
The quaint town of Mompiano in Val Camonica, Italy, was where Roberto De Zerbi spent his youthful years. From a tender age, he was greatly influenced by the football expertise of Diego Maradona. Maradona’s enchanting performance on the field ignited De Zerbi’s fervor for the game.
It’s noteworthy that during the mid-1980s, when De Zerbi was still shaping his dreams, football greats like Maradona, Michel Platini, and Gary Lineker were in their prime, casting an irresistible spell on aspiring enthusiasts like De Zerbi.
De Zerbi’s initial interaction with football started at his family home in Mompiano, where he first began playing with a football.
A pivotal part of his upbringing was his parents’ choice, particularly his father’s, to reside close to the Rigamonti Stadium, the home ground of Brescia Calcio. It’s important to highlight that every family member fervently supports Brescia, a well-recognized Italian football club.
Roberto De Zerbi’s Formative Years:
As a young boy, Roberto De Zerbi often accompanied his father, Alfredo, to the Mario Rigamonti Stadium. This was the place where Alfredo had the responsibility of coordinating fan support for Brescia Calcio’s home games, creating an electrifying atmosphere that deeply attracted young Roberto.
In the De Zerbi family, the weekends, especially Saturdays and Sundays, were times of particular importance. Alfredo held the esteemed role of President at the Brescia club coordination center.
Witnessing his father’s authority and the respect he garnered from football enthusiasts, young Roberto found himself increasingly fascinated by the sport.
When not engulfed in the excitement of the Mario Rigamonti Stadium, young Roberto was often spotted on Mompiano’s dusty fields, perfecting his football techniques.
His ambition to become a professional footballer was apparent from the beginning, and it was much more than just a passing childhood fantasy. Alfredo De Zerbi fondly remembers a time when Roberto was just two years old, saying,
“Robi was a bundle of energy. He was always on the move, forever with his ball; he never paused.”
Roberto De Zerbi’s Family Roots:
The role of President of the Brescia Club coordination center was not Alfredo’s main job. Alfredo took on this responsibility out of a love for football and a deep devotion to Brescia Calcio. Beyond his role of coordinating fan support, Alfredo was a businessman.
The father of Roberto De Zerbi owned and ran a house cleaning enterprise to provide for his family. Alfredo’s work revolved around selling Rotowash and floor-cleaning equipment to numerous Italian families.
Supported by his wife (Roberto De Zerbi’s mother), the hardworking Alfredo was highly valued by his numerous customers in Mompiano, Val Camonica, and other regions of Brescia.
A proud moment for Roberto De Zerbi’s parents came when their son debuted for Brescia, their local club, on February 2nd, 2008. Alfredo was particularly proud to see his son wearing his city’s colors. Roberto De Zerbi’s father (circled) with fellow Brescian supporters on the day his son debuted for Brescia.
Guido Franchi, a long-time Brescian fan, recounts,
“On the day of De Zerbi’s debut, we made a banner for him. I can still recall the joy in his father’s eyes that we shared with him around the bend.
Alfredo De Zerbi is a remarkable individual. He organized the cheering and had such a profound love for Brescia that sometimes he was so engrossed that he wount not watch the match, especially when the team losses.”
Roberto De Zerbi’s Family Heritage:
Notably, the professional Italian football coach takes great pride in his Brescian roots and holds Italian nationality. As per our findings, Roberto De Zerbi’s parents hail from Mompiano (in Val Camonica), a district of Brescia that was an independent municipality until 1880.
Ethnic Background of Roberto De Zerbi:
Being from Mompiano, the Italian football manager identifies as a Northern Italian. Roberto De Zerbi would also call himself a Brescian (as his family is from the city of Brescia) and more generally, a Lombard (because his family originates from the Lombardy region of Italy).
Roberto De Zerbi’s early education took place in Mompiano, where he was raised. His subsequent schooling occurred in Milan during his time with the Associazione Calcio Milan Primavera.
His education from a footballing standpoint continued after his playing career as he studied for and ultimately obtained his UEFA Pro Coaching Licence.
Roberto De Zerbi Biography – Journey to Football:
De Zerbi’s quest to become a professional footballer started on the dust-laden fields of San Gaudenzio Parish – Mompiano Oratory, a beginning shared by the likes of Sandro Tonali, Manuel Locatelli, and Wilfried Gnonto. Subsequently, De Zerbi began his professional career at AC Milan upon successful graduation from their academy.
In the initial stages of his career, playing opportunities were sparse. Hence, the aspiring football coach spent four seasons on loan to lower division clubs (ranging from Serie B to Serie C2).
His 1998-1999 season was spent on loan with Monza, following which he joined Padova (also on loan), where he, as an attacking midfielder, netted five goals in 23 games.
From 2000 to 2006, Roberto De Zerbi continued his peripatetic football career, playing for six other clubs (two on loan). After achieving success with the last three (Foggia, Arezzo, and Catania), he finally secured a dream transfer to a leading Italian team, Napoli.
Unfortunately, Napoli’s €2.5 million signing didn’t have a significant impact. However, Robi was proud to have played for the club that once housed his idol, Diego Maradona.
After a less than stellar performance with Napoli, the club permitted him two more loan moves (to Brescia and Avellino). At this point, De Zerbi decided to venture into foreign territories.
The attacking midfielder accepted an offer from CFR Cluj, a Romanian professional football club based in Cluj-Napoca, Cluj County. However, De Zerbi’s stay in Romania was fleeting.
He returned to Italy to see out the final stages of his playing career. By 2013, the footballer, who had begun to entertain coaching aspirations, decided to retire with A.C. Trento in 1921.
Roberto De Zerbi’s Early Days in Management:
Three years post his professional football retirement, De Zerbi landed a noteworthy coaching role. Specifically, on September 6, 2016 (at age 37), he was appointed as the head coach of Serie A club Palermo. This took place after the dismissal of the club’s former coach, Davide Ballardini, due to a dispute with Palermo’s management.
Regrettably, De Zerbi didn’t enjoy success in his maiden managerial role. His tenure at Palermo was fraught with struggles, with the team failing to garner a single point at home in three months, including seven losses. Given this poor showing, De Zerbi was relieved of his duties less than three months into his term, following a defeat to Serie B club Spezia via penalties.
After his dismissal, De Zerbi took a nearly year-long hiatus from management, during which he enhanced his coaching expertise by studying possession-based attacking football. Notably, this was when De Zerbi visited Pep Guardiola, becoming a disciple of the former Bayern Munich coach.
On October 23 of the following year (2017), Serie A newbies Benevento endorsed his appointment as head coach. De Zerbi applied his newfound knowledge, including lessons learned from Guardiola, to great effect with his new team. His astute transfer decisions and possession-oriented attacking style earned him considerable praise. On June 13, 2018, he was announced as the head coach of Sassuolo.
Under his leadership, Sassuolo witnessed a marked upswing. De Zerbi received commendation for his unique football philosophy and for exceeding expectations in terms of results. He also succeeded in raising the profiles of emerging star players such as Gianluca Scamacca, Domenico Berardi, and Manuel Locatelli, whom he managed at Sassuolo.
Roberto De Zerbi’s Managerial Ascendancy:
Sassuolo, under De Zerbi’s stewardship, gained global recognition for its distinctive football style and consistently positive outcomes. After three seasons with the club, De Zerbi decided in May 2021 to embark on a new phase in his career, seeking international coaching exposure beyond his Italian comfort zone.
A year before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Roberto De Zerbi contracted to become the head coach of Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk.
While there, he collaborated with prominent players like Mykhailo Mudryk, Lassina Traoré, and David Neres. The Italian strategist steered the team to victory in the 2021 Ukrainian Super Cup.
By clinching the above-mentioned trophy, Roberto De Zerbi achieved the distinction of being the first Italian manager to do so. Regrettably, the conflict in Ukraine cut short his tenure at the club.
In July 2022, a distressed De Zerbi departed the club, despite it leading the table in the Ukrainian Premier League. He was deeply unsettled by the wartime images he saw on TV from his hotel room in Kyiv. Roberto De Zerbi was forced out of Ukraine due to the war, and he once had this to say;
“The days seemed to stretch for 24 hours,” De Zerbi reminisced during an interview with Radio 105 about his final weeks in Ukraine. The days dragged on incredibly slowly, partly because sleep was elusive.
The sounds of the night were all too audible. Some sought refuge in bunkers while others tried to sleep in their rooms.
I initially tried to sleep in my room to gauge the happenings outside the hotel, but the sound of an explosion would send me dashing to the safety of a bunker.”
Finding a New Position:
The Italian coach, eager to resume his career abroad, awaited suitable offers. Within four months of his departure from Shakhtar Donetsk, De Zerbi found a new role with English club Brighton, replacing Graham Potter who had been acquired by Chelsea after Thomas Tuchel’s dismissal.
Roberto De Zerbi’s tactical approach with Brighton triggered a revolution in the Premier League. Working with budding talents like Kaoru Mitoma, Julio Enciso, Moisés Caicedo, Evan Ferguson, Alexis Mac Allister, Jack Hinshelwood, and others, he steered the team to the semi-final of the FA Cup. Alas, they were ousted by Man United on penalties following a scoreless 120 minutes.
Shaking off the penalty shootout heartbreak, De Zerbi spurred his players to vie for a European spot. Astonishingly, his Brighton team secured a 6th place finish in the Premier League, earning them a berth in the UEFA Europa League for the first time in the club’s history. And as they say, the rest is history.
Elisa – Wife of Roberto De Zerbi:
The esteemed Italian football coach, Roberto De Zerbi, is a dedicated family man, happily married to his wife, Elisa De Zerbi. Since the couple values their privacy and De Zerbi maintains no social media presence, few details about his wife, Elisa are publicly known.
Nonetheless, Elisa De Zerbi has been mentioned by her husband in a humorous context during a discussion about his approach to player retention amid transfer requests from other clubs. Quoting De Zerbi’s comments from an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport some years ago:
“Do I handle transfer negotiations?
Well, when I want a player to stay, I strive to make him feel valued.
Even my wife jests that I’ve never wooed her as passionately as I do a potential transfer target.”
Roberto De Zerbi’s Children – A Daughter and Son:
The marriage between Elisa and Roberto, which dates back to the 2000s, has been blessed with two children. Reports suggest that the couple welcomed a daughter as their first child and two years later, their son was born.
An archived photo from 2006 depicts Roberto De Zerbi’s son (in his right arm) and his wife Elisa, holding their daughter. At the time, De Zerbi, then aged 26 to 27, had just signed for Napoli. For reasons of privacy, the faces of the children have been blurred.
Assuming the photo was indeed taken in 2006, it can be inferred that their children were born in the mid and late mid-2000s. Therefore, both the son and daughter of Elisa and Roberto De Zerbi would now be adults (over 18 years old).
Who is Roberto De Zerbi?
Drawing an analogy from the acclaimed Game of Thrones series, Roberto De Zerbi, the current Brighton boss, can be likened to the resolute Stannis Baratheon. As this biography is being penned, he is giving stiff competition to an established “king”, Pep Guardiola.
However, De Zerbi’s “game” is football, guided by his coaching acumen and tactical prowess. His ambitions resonate with Brighton & Hove Albion’s fans, and his goal of securing a Europa League spot electrifies the atmosphere at the Amex Stadium during match days. Without a doubt, De Zerbi’s presence adds a vibrant dimension to the Premier League.
When De Zerbi was announced as Graham Potter’s replacement at Brighton, his appointment met with some skepticism, notably from television pundit Graeme Souness. The Liverpool legend voiced his doubts during an interview with talkSPORT:
“If you look up the coach on Google, you’ll see he’s had seven jobs in just nine years.
There’s an adage that if you’re an exceptional coach, clubs will endeavour to retain your services…”
However, De Zerbi remained unphased by such criticism, having learnt to deal with skeptics throughout his career. Even a few seasons back, his football philosophy sparked heated debates in Italy. Despite his Sassuolo side’s attractive style of play, critics questioned their defensive frailties.
Embracing the Guardiola School of Thought:
De Zerbi has openly acknowledged the profound influence of Pep Guardiola on his coaching style. He had an opportunity to visit Guardiola during his tenure at Bayern Munich. In an interview with La Repubblica in 2015, De Zerbi confessed;
Guardiola’s Bayern and Barcelona teams serve as benchmarks that inspire me.
Even though he gleaned insights from the Man City coach, Roberto De Zerbi has also internalized these ideas and transformed them into his unique football philosophy. This has led Guardiola to recognize him as one of the most impactful managers in football over the last 20 years. Guardiola himself expressed;
“When De Zerbi came on board, I sensed he would make a significant impact in the Premier League.
Still, I didn’t anticipate him achieving this in such a brief period.”
Unafraid to Speak Out:
Further, De Zerbi shares similarities with Jose Mourinho and Ralf Rangnick in terms of his forthright nature. When the announcement about a European Super League was made some years ago, De Zerbi didn’t hold back his disdain, referring to the proposed league as;
“a coup d’état.”
Moreover, De Zerbi initially defied the Italian Football Authorities following the Super League announcement. He prohibited his players from stepping onto the pitch for a Sassuolo match against AC Milan, a team listed as a member of the European Super League.
Caught in the Ukraine Conflict:
During the outbreak of the war, Roberto De Zerbi and his Shaktar Donetsk coaching staff found themselves confined in a hotel in Kiev, Ukraine. The Ukrainian Football Federation had put their league on hold, and De Zerbi remained in a hotel, witnessing the unsettling onset of the war through televised news.
Reliving the terrifying moments that signalled the start of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, De Zerbi shared his experience with Italpress;
“I remained in my room; it was a horrendous day. I stayed put because I’m here for sports, and I couldn’t abandon the championship.
I have a team comprising thirteen Brazilian players and my coaching staff.
We could have returned home until it was safe, but we stayed on, being frequently jolted awake by nighttime explosions.
From the hotel windows, we saw queues of cars on the move.
I presume they were heading towards Poland.
Despite the Italian Embassy advising us to leave, I couldn’t abandon the club and football.
Eventually, they closed the airspace, and here we remain.”
Outside the realm of coaching, one of Roberto De Zerbi’s passions is educating. Known for his commitment to nurturing new talent, the revered manager consistently carves out time to lead training sessions for budding football coaches. In the image below, you can see Roma legend Daniele de Rossi as one of his students.
Insights into Roberto De Zerbi’s Family Life:
Raised in a family where football and sales intertwined, the Italian professional coach grew up with a father who was both an ardent football supporter and a floor-cleaning equipment salesman. Now, let’s delve deeper into the life of Alfredo and the rest of his kin.
Roberto De Zerbi’s Father:
These days, Alfredo De Zerbi seldom visits the stadium to enjoy a football match. He even finds it challenging to watch games due to the anxiety they incite. According to those close to him, he prefers to switch on the television in one room and listen to the match from another.
During Roberto’s time as the manager of Sassuolo, his matches against Brescia often sparked a wave of emotion. Roberto regularly looks back at his times in the Mario Rigamonti Stadium, where his father Alfredo, a prominent figure in fan organization, brought him as a child.
Roberto De Zerbi’s Mother:
While his father Alfredo indisputably instilled a love for football in him, little is known about the woman who gave birth to the renowned Italian Manager.
That being said, we understand that De Zerbi’s mother contributed significantly to the family’s domestic cleaning business, which was run in conjunction with her husband, Alfredo.
As previously outlined in this biography, this enterprise involved selling Rotowash and floor-cleaning devices to a vast array of households in Italy.
Details on Roberto De Zerbi’s Siblings:
At present, the details concerning the sibling(s) of the highly respected Italian football coach are unconfirmed. There is also no accessible data regarding any extended family members or other individuals with whom he might have spent his childhood years in his birthplace, Mompiano, Italy.
In our final segment of Roberto De Zerbi’s Biography, we will reveal several lesser-known aspects about the Italian Coach. Without further delay, let’s begin.
Roberto De Zerbi’s Nicknames:
Starting with our exploration into his life story, it’s noteworthy that De Zerbi is fondly referred to as “Robi”, “Robo”, and “The Little Genius.” He received this last nickname during his stint as an Attacking Midfielder.
As per Corriere Italy, this epithet is a nod to Dejan Savicevic, the legendary number 10 at AC Milan, who played a crucial role in the club winning the Champions League title in Athens on May 18, 1994.
Roberto De Zerbi’s Salary:
As reported by SussexExpress, the former Shakhtar Donetsk coach pulls in an annual income of £2m with Brighton. By breaking down De Zerbi’s wages at Brighton into smaller components, we get the following:
How rich is the Brighton Tactician?
In Roberto De Zerbi’s hometown of Brescia, Italy, the average individual earns an annual income of €56,763. Did you know that a person earning this amount would need around 35.2 years to accumulate £2m, which is equivalent to De Zerbi’s 2023 yearly salary at Brighton?
The Issue with Cristian Stellini:
Prior to a match, Tottenham’s interim coach Cristian Stellini, who took over from Antonio Conte, attempted to extend a hand to De Zerbi. In response, Stellini found his hand grasped by a visibly agitated De Zerbi, who then addressed him in a clearly upset manner.
Subsequently, it was noted that the Brighton manager’s annoyance was triggered by reading an Italian translation of a news article, which suggested that Stellini had spoken negatively about him during a press briefing. The said comment was headlined in one of Gazzetta dello Sport’s newspapers, where Stellini allegedly stated;
‘De Zerbi has taken advantage of all Graham Potter’s groundwork at Brighton’.
However, Stellini defended himself by saying his remarks were misrepresented. And it would be challenging to interpret anything he said as disrespectful.
Clarifying what he described as a media misinterpretation, he stated that he had praised Graham Potter’s work and suggested that De Zerbi had built on that foundation, improving Brighton as a team.
He further added that it was unusual for Roberto De Zerbi not to watch the entire press conference to understand the full context of his comments.
Roberto De Zerbi’s Religion:
The home nation of the respected Brighton football manager, Italy, is renowned for its strong Roman Catholic religious traditions. While it seems probable that he is a Christian, there is no public information concerning Roberto De Zerbi’s religious convictions.
Roberto De Zerbi’s parents, lifelong fans of Brescia, laid their family roots in Mompiano, a suburb of the Italian city. His father, Alfredo, served as the president of the renowned Brescia club coordination center. As a young boy, the young Robi would often accompany his dad to the club’s Mario Rigamonti Stadium.
The accomplished Italian professional football coach comes from a middle-class family situated in Mompiano (Val Camonica). Roberto De Zerbi’s father operated a home cleaning business. Alfredo sold floor-cleaning machines, such as the Rotowash, to a wide range of Italian families.
His initiation into football started with his first kick at a ball in his Mompiano home. From just two years old, Alfredo noticed that his son, Roberto, was irresistibly drawn to having a ball at his feet. As De Zerbi matured, he developed into a talented left-footed player, earning a spot in AC Milan’s academy.
Known to his friends as Robi, he embarked on his professional career in 1998. Beginning with a loan spell at Monza, he moved through several teams in Italy’s lower divisions. His career took a significant turn when he joined Napoli in 2006. After retiring from professional football in 2013, De Zerbi sought out his UEFA Pro Licence.
As a coach, he has managed a diverse range of clubs. Namely, Darfo Boario, Foggia, Palermo, and Benevento, before enjoying a rapid ascent with Sassuolo. The Ukraine-Russia conflict in 2022 halted De Zerbi’s progress with Shakhtar Donetsk, paving the way for his tenure at Brighton.
Today, Brighton’s fans view their coach as a strategist who has captivated and charmed the Premier League. To industry giants like Pep Guardiola, De Zerbi, like Sarina Wiegman, is one of the most influential football tacticians of the past two decades.
We appreciate you taking the time to read SoccerBiography’s version of Roberto De Zerbi’s Biography. Our team of Soccer content creators is committed to accuracy and fairness. Especially as we strive to share Football Stories about individuals managing the Beautiful Game. De Zerbi’s Bio is a part of our wider SoccerBiography Extras collection.
Please inform us if you spot any inaccuracies or awkward phrasing in our memoir about the football manager from Mompiano. Also, we welcome your thoughts about Robi, the Italian who took Brighton into the Europa League.
Apart from our article on Roberto De Zerbi’s Bio, we have other intriguing Managerial Stories you might enjoy. SoccerBiography suggests you check out the Life History of Eddie Howe, Simeone Inzaghi, and Vincenzo Montella, the fast-rising Italian manager.