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My style is Shakhtar style

Tuesday, June 15, 2021



On June 15, Roberto De Zerbi was introduced at the NSC Olimpiyskiy as Shakhtar head coach

The main part of the event was a big press conference by the Shakhtar coach, during which he answered questions about his attributes, main competitors in the championship, possible transfers and his trust in young Ukrainian footballers.

- Roberto, what are your first impressions of Kyiv, Shakhtar and training sessions?
- Good evening! I’ve arrived here with a lot of enthusiasm and want to enjoy my work. I arrived at the club which I consider top-notch. The players here are very strong, and I want to instil in them my vision of play, to be a role model for them. My first impressions are great. It seems to me that everything is too beautiful to be true. I have already established a wonderful relationship with the staff of the club. The players are professionals who take their responsibilities quite seriously. I only recently had the opportunity to meet them, and I’m delighted by what I saw. There is every prerequisite for a great season.

- Last season, Shakhtar had no trophies in Ukraine for the first time in many years. One of the reasons behind the failure was the overly gentle nature of your predecessor Luis Castro. Do you consider yourself a democrat coach or a dictator coach?
- I wouldn’t like to recall anything that is not directly related to me. I won’t say a word about the past season simply because I wasn’t here. Yes, I know that Shakhtar won nothing last season. Conversely, this is an additional stimulus for us - the thirst for victories and trophies. We want to show our best side. I think that a smart coach should not behave in the same way with all players and in all situations. If a situation will require me to be firm, do not worry, I have a fairly firm character, I can show it. Having met one group of football players, I don’t think that in working with them I need to show myself as a dictator - it will not bear fruit. I consider myself a democratic coach, but let's not forget that at the end of the day, it’s still up to me to decide.

- You probably also know that Shakhtar's major opponents in Ukraine are Dynamo Kyiv who are currently headed by Mircea Lucescu. You are from Brescia. Your youth also fell on those years when Mircea Lucescu was the head coach of Brescia. You probably even went to the stadium to watch him at work. What do you think about this coach and the upcoming rivalry between you and him?
- When Lucescu worked at Brescia, I spent every weekend, every match in the fan enclosure of Brescia - that’s the hottest place in the stands. Lucescu is a great coach, a maestro in his experience and skill. And for me the rivalry with such a strong coach will be an additional incentive to do my best. I will try to prepare my team in the best possible way for the matches against Dynamo. I know how important they are.

- Last season Dynamo won all three domestic trophies. Are you ready to state today that your arrival marks the end of Dynamo's hegemony?
- No, I will not take on such responsibility. This doesn’t indicate any readiness or unavailability. Anyone who knows football will not take on such a responsibility. That said, if you ask me if I am ready to do my best to take on Dynamo Kyiv decently, then yes, of course, I am looking forward to those matches.

- 20 years ago, Shakhtar already had an Italian coach - Nevio Scala. Players from that period talked about him cooking spaghetti himself at the base. Do you have the same cooking skills as Nevio Scala?
- You know, being a coach is quite difficult, so one job is enough for me.

- What was decisive for you in accepting Shakhtar's offer? Have there been any offers from other clubs?
- Good question. I must say right away that during my time at Sassuolo I got really attached to that club, I had excellent relations with all the players. While making the decision to leave, I talked a lot with Sergei Palkin, Darijo Srna and Jose Boto. It was important for me that we have the same view of football. We look at the game in the same way. And I had a feeling that we’d known each other for twenty years. I had offers from other teams, but I was quite firm in my decision to come here, to Kyiv, to work with Shakhtar. I did what I wanted.

- It so happened that Shakhtar's scouting strategy is based around Brazilian players. Right now, they form the foundation for success. How comfortable is it for you, an Italian coach, to work with Brazilians? Won’t language be a communication problem? All of your predecessors spoke Portuguese ...
- Of course, I agree that this is a very important issue, but I hope that I will not have any problems. Besides Italian, I speak Spanish. When I speak on the pitch, the Brazilians, as a rule, understand me well. I also speak English. Hopefully, with the help of my assistants, translators, over time I will also be able to communicate with Ukrainian players in Russian.

- Yesterday you had your first training session at the club. It involved players who had previously been loaned out: Yukhym Konoplya, Viacheslav Tankovskyi, Valerii and Artem Bondarenko, Danyil Sikan and others. Can you say that these players will remain in the team for the next season? Are you going to get other players back from loan? For example, Olarenwaju Kayode is playing in Turkey, while Shakhtar needs a forward now.
- The issues of the team staffing have not yet been finalised in any way - neither in terms of the fact that someone might join the team, nor in terms of the fact that someone might leave it. The players who are currently training with us (the same Bondarenko, Tankovskyi, Sikan) have every chance to stay in the first team. And I can't say that I’ve seen them for the first time. I got to know the team, I watched a lot of videos. Of course, I need more time to watch them at work, how they train, how ready they are, primarily mentally, because Shakhtar is a very strong team. I understand how difficult it is to gain a foothold in such a strong team. I really believe in the abilities of Mudryk and Sudakov - I think they have excellent chances of gaining a foothold in the first team. If we want to be at the highest level, at the top, we must believe in young footballers, and above all in young Ukrainian footballers.

- In one of your interviews, you said that you consulted Paulo Fonseca about moving to Shakhtar. What exactly did he tell you about Ukraine and the club? Perhaps he warned you against some difficulties?
- I spoke with Fonseca after I had signed the contract. His opinion was by no means decisive. I deliberately postponed the conversation with him for the period after the signing the contract because I did not want any pitfalls. I wanted to avoid unexpected things - so that he wouldn’t accidentally tell me something bad, which, perhaps, he himself wouldn’t want to say. We talked when the contract had been signed.

- Have you fallen in love with Kyiv? What surprised you the most in Ukraine? Did you know only about Dynamo and Shakhtar before the move?
- I understand that Kyiv is a big and very beautiful city. It’s a pity that I won’t have the opportunity to get to know it for real, because I came here to work, and the work of a coach takes almost the whole day. I know Ukrainian football primarily by the national team which is currently headed by Andriy Shevchenko, and almost all of his coaching staff are from Italy. As for Shakhtar, it might come as a surprise to you, but I want to assure you that the club is widely known in Italy. The local fans and experts know the players by their names, they are well versed in the team issues and follow the team. In Italy, hearing Shakhtar is normal, it’s no curiosity or a surprise. What surprised me here and what I thought would be different? Organization of work at the club. That's incredible. Particularly for me, an Italian who knows the mental peculiarities of working in my country. I didn’t expect that everything here would be organized at such a high level. When I first met the president, I realized that everything he does in football is based on his great love of football. He is a real football fan. He is really well-versed person in football who wants to know everything, to get the answers to every kind of question. And I want to tell you that I have one more goal besides purely football ones, besides winning a trophy and participating in the Champions League, besides the fact that I want to instil a beautiful style of play in Shakhtar. I also want to ensure that the Shakhtar president returns to the stands as a spectator. This will be one of my objectives while working here.

- This summer’s first newcomer is Pedrinho. I would like to hear from you the evaluation of the player and the role you are going to deploy him in. Didn't his break in play at Benfica tell?
- Pedrinho is a footballer for Shakhtar. The player who matches the Shakhtar level. There is no one role - he can prove himself in different roles. And picking a position for Pedrigno is not a problem at all.

- Last season Shakhtar scored only 13 goals from set play - this is only the seventh best result. For comparison: Dynamo had 23 goals after set pieces. What place in De Zerbi’s system belongs to set pieces and should we expect an increase in efficiency?
- My football philosophy is that the team should be with the ball. Of course, set pieces are important, but it’s also important to be able to play without any set play. It seems to me that if too many goals are scored from set play, there are flaws in some other aspects.

- Have you decided on the people who will be part of your coaching staff? Can you name them?
- I came here with my coaching staff who were with me at Sassuolo. Two video analysts who already worked at Shakhtar have joined us here. Those are great experts, I appreciated their abilities. Plus, my coaching staff will have translators who will help in my communication with the team.

- Did you manage to get to know the Ukrainian league level? Can you mention the play of some teams or the work of one of the coaches?
- I watched a number of Shakhtar matches in last season’s Ukrainian league. I asked the club's videographers to prepare a specific list for me featuring all the games with indication of the opponents’ coaches. But in the situation where we set ourselves the goal of winning the league title, we must stress the importance of each upcoming match and in no case underestimate our opponents. It’s impossible to have a walk in the park with any Ukrainian league side.

- In your opinion, what is your greatest career achievement? And what do you need to achieve with Shakhtar in order to say that this is your greatest achievement?
- I’m generally happy with my coaching career. I think I received sufficient compensation for my work. I coached Serie A teams for five years. I started working as head coach in Serie A at the age of 37. In my last season, Sassuolo and I claimed the eighth spot, and I believe that’s the maximum that was within our power, the limit of our capabilities. We performed very well. In fact, we don't have any trophy, but I feel like I won something. It is very important to win. I understand what kind of club I’ve joined. We discussed this with the president. It’s important not just to win, but how victories are claimed and trophies are won. The way to achieve success must be chosen at the beginning of the path. It’s clear that victory, success is the final straight. But as a coach, I must select the path for the team to take. If, for example, you score a set-piece goal or after twenty passes in a row, you can win in both cases, but those are two different ways of achieving success.

- Last season, Shakhtar drew with Inter twice. It was a really powerful result, but the team achieved it by playing defensively, giving the initiative to the opponents and defending in almost both matches. Are you ready to give up your attacking style, possession and control in order to achieve some important results in Europe?
- Football is very diverse in nature. If we are talking about what is happening now, at the starting point, of course, I’m not ready to give up my style. Moreover, my style is actually the style of Shakhtar, the style of football that the team played before me. If in the course of a match I understand that it would be correct to field an additional defender or play defensively, I will do that without hesitation.

- Which of your former Sassuolo players would you like to see at Shakhtar? How close is Brazilian defender Marlon to making a move?
- I really love each of the Sassuolo players I had the opportunity to work with. Marlon is no exception in this case. And then, by and large, it’s a question of the club - how they will decide and how they will act. Of course, when there is a search for a player for a certain position, with certain qualities, they choose from literally two or three options. It is possible that one of those three options will be Marlon.

- There was information that you and the coaching staff are not going to bring your families to Ukraine. Does this mean that the decision to live in Ukraine is not serious or unstable?
- No, that’s incorrect information because some members of my coaching staff will come here with their families. Well, when you do such work, it’s essentially luck, a privilege to do such work. And you must give your all to work in the best way. To do that, you need to sacrifice something. Being distant from your family is just one such sacrifice. Because some of us will be away from their families, and this explains our current readiness for work, the thirst for competition and the desire to achieve something with Shakhtar. For this, we are ready to give up something in our lives. I think that the opportunity to work with Shakhtar is a very important stage in my career and a very big chance. I think I can grow up here and get better. And on my part, I will help Shakhtar grow and become better.

- You said that some members of your coaching staff will bring their families, but didn’t specify about yourself.
- At the moment my family is staying in Italy, but I hope that they will come often.

- Drawing parallels with Paulo Fonseca and his first press conference, he then said that his family would come here often. We all know how the story of Paulo Fonseca and Ukraine ended. Aren't you afraid of the same scenario?
- I am going to talk just about myself. I came here to work as a coach. Given the way I work as a coach, I have too little time left for my private life. Therefore, it’s better not to contact me with such questions - my doors are closed.

- Serie A is quite colourful, the fans there enthusiastically support their clubs, at the same time in Ukraine the situation is somewhat calmer. Will you miss the passion of the Italian league? At the same time, we can’t compare Sassuolo and Shakhtar because Shakhtar have always been the leaders here, and Sassuolo is a mid-level club in their league.
- Let's not forget that in the last year and a half there have been practically no fans in the stands around the world. Naturally, any coach, any team want to play at the full stadiums. We understand that football loses quite a lot without spectators.