Roberto Mancini 'immensely honoured' to be appointed Saudi Arabia manager

Mancini's resignation from the Italy job this month was a major shock

Roberto Mancini, 58, led Italy to the Euro 2020 title but failed to qualify for last year's World Cup. Saudi Arabia Football Federation / via Reuters
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Roberto Mancini was named the new coach of the Saudi Arabia national team on Sunday in a deal reported to be worth about $27 million a year after he quit the Italy job this month.

The Saudis, who beat eventual champions Argentina at last year's World Cup in Qatar, have been without a coach since Herve Renard left to take charge of France's women's team.

Mancini, 58, led Italy to the Euro 2020 title but failed to qualify for last year's World Cup.

“I am immensely honoured to be offered the position as Saudi Arabia national team manager,” said Mancini, who has signed a four-year contract.

“I believe this is a great opportunity for me to experience football in a new country, especially with the growing popularity of football in Asia.

“The presence of top players in the Saudi Pro League indicates the potential for growth in the national football scene.”

The kingdom has made waves this summer by buying a host of players from European clubs for teams in the Saudi Pro League.

Brazil star Neymar was the latest in a growing list of big names to be attracted by the huge sums offered by the Saudis after Cristiano Ronaldo started the trend by moving to Al Nassr in January.

Mancini's resignation from the Italy job came as a major shock, as earlier this month he had been handed responsibility for the country's Under-21 and Under-20 teams.

He was heavily criticised for his decision, especially after early reports that he was set to accept a move to Saudi Arabia, which he denied was the reason behind his resignation.

Mancini, who was replaced by former Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti, had a mixed time in his five years as Italy coach, with victory at Euro 2020 seeming to revitalise a troubled football nation.

But the Azzurri failed to qualify for last year's World Cup after a disastrous play-off defeat to North Macedonia, in the second straight time they missed the world's biggest football tournament.

Mancini won the 1991 Serie A title and four Italian Cups with long-time club Sampdoria, where he starred in attack alongside Gianluca Vialli.

As a coach, he won three more “Scudetti” at Inter Milan – one assigned to the club after the “Calciopoli” match-fixing scandal – and then won the Premier League with Manchester City in 2012.

Newspaper La Gazzetta Dello Sport reported on Sunday that Mancini's contract in Saudi Arabia would come with an annual salary of €25 million (about $27 million).

The federation's statement did not disclose his salary.

“The appointment confirms the new era of growth for the Saudi Arabian national team and marks a new milestone in Mancini's distinguished career,” the Saudi federation said.

Mancini was due to arrive in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Monday to be presented to the media.

His first match with the team is set for September 8, an international friendly against Costa Rica at St James' Park, home of Newcastle, which is owned by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

Another friendly against South Korea is scheduled to be held in the English city on September 12.

A video posted on Sunday to the Saudi national team's account on X, formerly Twitter, featured Mancini in a white shirt and green tie declaring: “I made history in Europe, now it's time to make history with Saudi.”

The length of his new contract means Mancini could lead the Saudi team to the next World Cup, and a source close to the negotiations told AFP the Saudi federation was “very optimistic with him at the helm”.

Updated: August 28, 2023, 7:57 AM