De Zerbi wants to help Steele follow Dunk into England squad
Roberto De Zerbi hopes to help goalkeeper Jason Steele gain England recognition after claiming Lewis Dunk’s international recall is a comparable achievement to Brighton qualifying for the Europa League.
Seagulls skipper Dunk has been included in Gareth Southgate’s squad for next month’s Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia, having been in international exile since his debut in November 2018.
The 31-year-old has been rewarded for his key role in Albion’s sixth-placed Premier League finish.
Former Middlesbrough, Blackburn and Sunderland keeper Steele has also been instrumental during a remarkable season at the Amex Stadium after dislodging Robert Sanchez as first choice in early March.
Brighton head coach De Zerbi believes the 32-year-old is capable of joining Dunk in the national team set-up to compete with the likes of Jordan Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale, Nick Pope and Sam Johnstone.
“It’s great news,” the Italian said of Dunk’s call-up.
“I think it’s maybe the same big news like Europa League because to help one of our players to achieve a target so important, so prestigious is a proud (moment).
“We have to be proud – not only the coaches but the players – for one player.
“We will work in the next season to help Jason Steele to achieve the same target of Lewis Dunk because he has the quality to achieve one target so important.
“In my vision, in my idea, Jason Steele is a top keeper. It’s difficult to find another keeper of this level.
“I study football 24 hours per day but it’s very hard to find another keeper with this quality.”
Steele, a former England Under-21 international who represented Great Britain at the London 2012 Olympics, had never played in the top flight until last term.
He has registered six clean sheets and one assist during the past three months, having been preferred to Sanchez due to his ability to play out from the back.
Steele joined the Seagulls in June 2018 – on the back of suffering successive relegations to League One with Blackburn and Sunderland – and had to wait more than three years for his league debut.
“Football is nice because the past is not important,” said De Zerbi.
“I have to analyse the present and sometimes the potential in the future but the past is not important.
“You can change your life in one day, if you believe in yourself and you believe in work.
“And I told him the same: ‘Jason, you have to think you can change. I give you the possibility to change your life, to change your career and you have to believe in yourself because I help you and you help me and you help the team’.”
Brighton complete an unforgettable campaign at Aston Villa on Sunday after cementing their Europa League spot with Wednesday evening’s 1-1 draw at home to champions Manchester City.
De Zerbi, who succeeded Graham Potter in September, feels Albion can progress significantly next term.
“I am looking forward to working in pre-season because I think we can improve in a lot of things,” he said.
“We have played not more than 70 per cent and we have another 30 per cent of improvement.”