Former Argentina international Marcelo Gallardo has been appointed as the new manager of Saudi Pro League champions Al Ittihad.
Gallardo, 47, was confirmed as Nuno Espirito Santo’s replacement early on Sunday after the former Tottenham Hotspur manager was dismissed earlier this month following a winless run in the league stretching five matches. The Jeddah club sit fifth in the table after 13 rounds.
Gallardo, who had previously been linked with Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal, joins on a contract through until 2025.
In a statement on social media, Ittihad said: "The Board of Directors of Al Ittihad announces the signing of a new coaching staff, led by the Argentinian Marcelo Gallardo, to coach the football first team with a contract extending for a year and a half.”
The former Argentina playmaker returns to management after leaving River Plate last year following eight, trophy-laden years at the storied club.
During his time there, Gallardo guided the club he represented as a player in three separate spells to 14 titles, including the 2015 and 2018 Copa Libertadores. He was also runner-up in 2019. He departed as River’s most successful manager.
Nine-time Saudi champions, Ittihad have endured a difficult past couple of months after last season capturing a first top-flight title in 14 years.
The club was one of the most active in what proved a historic summer transfer window for the kingdom, signing the likes of then-Ballon d’Or holder Karim Benzema, 2018 World Cup winner N’Golo Kante, Liverpool midfielder Fabinho and Celtic winger Jota.
However, the poor run of domestic form increased the pressure on Nuno despite his 2022/23 league success – his debut campaign at the club.
The Portuguese left Ittihad after this month’s dismal 2-0 defeat in the Asian Champions League to Iraq’s Air Force Club.
Ittihad do, though, still lead Group C with two matches remaining. They are next in action on Friday, away in the Pro League to Steven Gerrard’s Al Ettifaq.