Roberto Mancini defends decision to quit Italy and opens door to Saudi Arabia

Euro 2020-winning manager is reportedly top target to lead Green Falcons

Former Italy coach Roberto Mancini has been linked with the Saudi Arabia job. Reuters
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Roberto Mancini has admitted he would gladly accept a lucrative offer to coach Saudi Arabia – but has denied that is the reason for his sudden and controversial decision to quit the Italy job.

Mancini, who led the Azzurri to Euro 2020 glory and two third-placed finishes in the Nations League, quit his post on Sunday, drawing widespread criticism from the Italian media.

His decision came amid strong reports linking him to the Saudi Arabia job, with the Saudi FA reportedly ready to offer the 58-year-old a salary of €25 million a year.

In a series of interviews, Mancini said he is open to offers but insisted he had quit because of a conflict with the head of Italy's football federation, Gabriele Gravina, not because he had already agreed to join the flow of footballing talent being lured to the Gulf state.

“I'm a football manager and when I receive an offer that I like I will accept it. But that's not why I quit the national team,” Mancini told Corriere Dello Sport.

“Italy was always the number one for me. After many years I've received plenty of offers which I will look at in the coming weeks but right now there is nothing solid.

“I'm a manager and I can't just stop … but Saudi Arabia has nothing to do with it.”

Despite success in London in 2020, the Azzurri subsequently failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar following a catastrophic play-off defeat to North Macedonia.

Their recent results have also been mixed, with a home defeat to England in Euro 2024 qualifying followed by a Nations League loss to Spain and a win over the Netherlands.

Mancini claims the Italian FA was looking to make changes to his coaching team, prompting his decision to stand down.

“Have you ever seen the head of the federation change a manager's coaching staff? I'm the one who should be making changes,” he told La Repubblica.

“The truth is that we've been on a different wavelength for a while. But why make changes to my staff? At that point he should have sacked me … if he wanted to keep me, he could have but he didn't want to.”

Italy face North Macedonia and Ukraine in the Euro 2024 qualifiers next month and the federation is searching for an experienced coach who can help them avoid the humiliation of missing a second successive major tournament.

Luciano Spalletti, Serie A winner with Napoli last season, and former Italy coach Antonio Conte are the favourites.

The Green Falcons, meanwhile, have been without a full-time coach since March when Herve Renard left his post to take over the France women's team.

Updated: August 16, 2023, 7:02 PM