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Roberto De Zerbi responds to speculation over Liverpool’s next manager

Roberto De Zerbi sidestepped speculation he could succeed Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool as he focuses on spearheading a memorable end to the season at Brighton.

Seagulls boss De Zerbi is among the bookmakers’ early favourites to take over at Anfield following the announcement Klopp will leave at the end of the current campaign.

The Italian gave a shake of the head when told he was being linked with the Reds and insists he is fully concentrated on Albion’s quest for success in the Premier League, Europa League and FA Cup.

Brighton travel to top-flight rivals Sheffield United in the fourth round of the cup on Saturday, having suffered a Wembley penalty-shootout loss to Manchester United in the semi-finals of the competition last term.

“My focus is just on the last part of the season,” De Zerbi told a press conference ahead of the trip to Bramall Lane. “We are going to compete and to play a historic part of the season. We compete in the Premier League to reach the same target as last season (qualifying for Europe).

“We’re going to play the last 16 in the Europa League. We compete in the FA Cup and we remember the defeat last season in Wembley and for it I keep my eye on my team.”

De Zerbi is contracted to the Seagulls until 2026 and has significantly enhanced his coaching reputation in England since replacing Graham Potter in September 2022. The 44-year-old said there was no update on a potential new deal at the Amex Stadium after revealing last month that he was in discussions with the club.

He understands Klopp’s decision to step down but feels it will be a significant loss for English football.

“I’m very sad because, if he changes league, changes country, the Premier League loses one of the best coaches in the world,” said De Zerbi. “I consider Klopp, (Pep) Guardiola, (Carlo) Ancelotti, (Marcelo) Bielsa the best coaches in the world and I’m sad for it.

“I can understand it very well. I think our work is the best work you can do but it is very tough. You need energy. You have to push every day. If you don’t work with the right energy, you lose everything.”

Albion defender Igor Julio is in contention to return from injury to face the Blades but De Zerbi remains without a host of players, including Ansu Fati, Kaoru Mitoma, Simon Adingra and Julio Enciso. The head coach feels it is too early in the tournament to be dreaming of a return to Wembley.

“It’s an opportunity but it’s too far to make other thoughts,” he said of this weekend’s tie against the Premier League’s bottom club. “We have to keep our focus in the game. We know the level of difficulty of the game. We are ready to compete.

“To win the game we have to play our best, otherwise we lose the game.”