Denis Kazan­sky bursts into your day with his author’s col­umn “Big Den” and a sto­ry about the head coach of Brighton.

In Italy there is such a pathet­ic expres­sion — “climb the char­i­ot of Thes­pis.”

One can eas­i­ly imag­ine such a pic­ture — a qui­et patio, a wor­thy Ital­ian gen­tle­man, savor­ing an after­noon cap­puc­ci­no, in a shirt with expen­sive cuf­flinks, asks his child the fol­low­ing ques­tion: “Can you stay in the char­i­ot of Thes­pis?” He, of course, does not doubt his abil­i­ties; he will not only hold on, he will con­trol her.





This is how they talk about the pro­fes­sion of an actor, remem­ber­ing the ancient Greek poet and play­wright Thes­pis from Ikaria.

This same Thes­pis BC great­ly changed the stage sys­tem of that time, adding a soloist to the choir. Or, as they called it then, a “pro­tag­o­nist.” He changed masks, but all the action revolved around him.

This word grad­u­al­ly came into use, and now the “pro­tag­o­nist”, in the broad­est sense, is sim­ply the main char­ac­ter.

And the favorite word of the Ital­ian coach Rober­to De Zer­bi.

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“My fam­i­ly taught me to try to be a pro­tag­o­nist! I was a coach in the fifth divi­sion of the Ital­ian cham­pi­onship, and now I work in the Eng­lish Pre­mier League. I’m proud of my path, that I became a pro­tag­o­nist,” his words in one of his many recent inter­views.

44-year-old De Zer­bi, as in the ancient Greek the­ater, is now a cen­tral fig­ure in dis­cus­sions about the future of sev­er­al clubs at once. And what kind! Bay­ern, Liv­er­pool and Barcelona! The grandees are still look­ing close­ly, and no one has made any con­crete pro­pos­als.

De Zer­bi is still Brighton man­ag­er for the next two years, but the rhetoric in recent weeks only high­lights the dif­fer­ences between the mod­est club and the young Ital­ian’s ambi­tions.

“We pay for our mis­takes. We pay every­thing — from the own­er, to the coach­es and play­ers,” he said after the Europa League defeat to Roma (0:4, 1:0). “I want to talk to the club. The con­tract is not the prob­lem, the prob­lem is find­ing a plan for the future.”

This kind of attack on own­er Tony Bloom had nev­er been car­ried out by pre­vi­ous coach­es of this love­ly resort team.

Pho­to by Reuters

The life of the “gulls,” as they are called in Eng­land, is quite sim­ple — hire great scouts, find super-tal­ent­ed play­ers, pol­ish them and sell them for big mon­ey, select coach­es for this pur­pose. Stay in the top ten in the Pre­mier League. Earn mon­ey with­out spend­ing much.

The sys­tem works lux­u­ri­ous­ly: the sales of Caice­do to Chelsea, McAl­lis­ter to Liv­er­pool, Trossard to Arse­nal for mon­ey that could well form the annu­al bud­gets of small Russ­ian regions is a clear con­fir­ma­tion. They brought them to the island for ridicu­lous pen­nies. Play­ers from the club’s sys­tem often appear in the first team and grow as quick­ly as oth­er peo­ple’s chil­dren.

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It’s unlike­ly that any­thing should change. Bloom has lived like this and is not real­ly going to change. Why break some­thing that works?

De Zer­bi obvi­ous­ly has oth­er plans. He needs a title fight.

Roberto’s career fol­lows an amaz­ing tra­jec­to­ry — from the low­er divi­sions of Italy, through Sas­suo­lo (already more seri­ous) and Shakhtar (there is already the Cham­pi­ons League), to the best league in the world (not count­ing the FNL, of course). With Brighton, he imme­di­ate­ly went to Europe and was able to get out of a dif­fi­cult group with Mar­seille, Ajax and AEK.

And most impor­tant­ly (besides the results), Brighton plays lux­u­ry foot­ball. De Zer­bi pro­nounces the word “plea­sure” as often as “pro­tag­o­nist.” “I’m liv­ing the dream. And to live like this means to enjoy. I want to be the pro­tag­o­nist on the field. It means hav­ing the ball, keep­ing the ball.”

Pho­to by AFP

His foot­ball is typ­i­cal­ly attack­ing in the mod­ern sense. Press­ing, inten­si­ty, con­stant changes of posi­tion, threat from any play­er. But then the details begin, which make head coach and mod­ern inno­va­tor Pep Guardi­o­la delight­ed. “De Zer­bi is one of the most influ­en­tial coach­es of the last 20 years,” he said.

This sea­son for Brighton is not as bright as the pre­vi­ous one. There are a lot of objec­tive rea­sons — the sale of key play­ers, injuries and a gru­el­ing Euro­pean tour­na­ment. But the Seag­ulls are six points away from sixth place, and from a tour­na­ment point of view every­thing is fine.

Only on Sun­day were Liv­er­pool able to beat Brighton (2:1) — for four match­es in a row before this week­end, Klopp had failed to beat the Ital­ian.

There were shows at Anfield. More­over, Xabi Alon­so decid­ed not to leave Ger­many for now and con­firm his first suc­cess­ful expe­ri­ence with his sec­ond year.

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At Liv­er­pool you not only need to win, but also to do it beau­ti­ful­ly.

This is what De Zer­bi can do. Like being hot-tem­pered. Which is some­thing clas­sic and prim (in a good way) Liv­er­pool doesn’t real­ly accept.

Tem­pera­men­tal­ly, De Zer­bi is more like Chelsea’s next man­ag­er. Look at the list of those who have brought suc­cess to the Blues and you will see many sim­i­lar “pro­tag­o­nists” from Jose to Con­te.

Barcelona have already received clear advice from Guardi­o­la — take it imme­di­ate­ly. Bay­ern hears this too. But.

In Spain and Ger­many, they need more than just a qual­i­ty coach. They also need a wise politi­cian. The real­i­ty of the exis­tence of these two clubs is com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent than in Eng­land. The scale of not only the work, but also the influ­ence of the coach and on the coach there is colos­sal.

Now they need a “sea­soned” spe­cial­ist. De Zer­bi is still grow­ing.

At least one step is required.

Rober­to held on in the “char­i­ot of Thes­pis.” But he is just get­ting close to man­ag­ing it.