Klopp hails 'incredible' De Zerbi after Anfield love-in

3 weeks ago 28

Down in the Anfield tunnel, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp shared a warm hug with his Brighton counterpart Roberto de Zerbi in a moment which illustrated the love and respect between the pair.

It came shortly after Liverpool had edged past Brighton to go top of the Premier League table, when the managers passed each other again during their round of post-match interviews.

"I told De Zerbi to keep turning the football world upside down," Klopp told BBC Radio 5 Live when asked what he had said to the Italian.

"I will watch it from some distance. I respect so much what he's doing."

But where will the soon-to-depart Liverpool boss, who is taking a break from the game at the end of the season, be watching De Zerbi ply his trade?

It remains a possibility that the Brighton manager could be Klopp's replacement at Anfield.

The 44-year-old Italian has become hot property after leading the Seagulls to a sixth-place finish last season and bringing European football to the club for the first time.

With doubts over his Brighton future continuing, De Zerbi was already among the favourites to take over from Klopp.

But his chances have seemingly increased since Xabi Alonso - who was seen as the frontrunner - decided to stay at Bayer Leverkusen.

Klopp might not have a say in who his replacement will be, but the great esteem he holds for De Zerbi would not have gone unnoticed by the Liverpool hierarchy.

"It is incredible what he has done," added the German.

"Brighton have lost Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo, they have lots of injuries, but he puts a team like that together. An incredible job."

Jurgen Klopp and Roberto de Zerbi share a hug at AnfieldJurgen Klopp's Liverpool had not beaten Roberto de Zerbi's Brighton until Sunday's 2-1 win at Anfield

Klopp's relief came after his side fought back from behind to secure a 2-1 victory at Anfield which put them top of the Premier League - at least until Manchester City and Arsenal met later on Sunday.

After their title rivals played out a goalless draw, Liverpool stayed top on 67 points with nine rounds of games remaining. Arsenal are second on 65 points, City remain third on 64 points.

But securing that cushion was hard going for Liverpool against a Brighton side who are well drilled in understanding De Zerbi's demands.

Brighton made the perfect start by scoring through Danny Welbeck's thumping strike after 87 seconds, then defended deeply and disciplined while patiently picking the right moments to counter-attack.

"We played the best game against them since we face each other, so I like that even more," said Klopp, who earned his first win over De Zerbi in five attempts.

Some had billed the game as an Anfield audition for the former Shakhtar Donetsk manager. While his team ended up losing, De Zerbi said they "played well" and "showed their best" against one of the leading teams in the Premier League.

Brighton have not been able to hit the same heights as last season, impacted by the added Europa League games and a host of injuries to key players stretching De Zerbi's squad.

Yet they still sit ninth in the Premier League and remain in the hunt for back-to-back European qualification.

De Zerbi remains contracted at Brighton until 2026 but has not been shy in expressing his demands to owner Tony Bloom if he is going to stay.

"I am lucky because I have a clear idea and in my life I decide always what I want to do," he said.

"I will speak with Tony and the club and we will find a solution together without problems but I know my future and what I want.

"I want to compete and keep my ambition high because my life is football. I want to wake up happy every morning and fight to reach the maximum."

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