Roberto Mancini has been appointed as Saudi Arabia national team’s new head coach
On Sunday, Roberto Mancini was named coach of the Saudi Arabia national team, just two weeks after the European Championship-winning manager of Italy unexpectedly resigned.
The Italian has been awarded a four-year contract by the Saudi Arabian soccer federation (SAFF). His first matches will be against Costa Rica on September 8 and South Korea four days later, both of which will be friendly games at Newcastle.
SAFF posted a video on social media with clips of Mancini. In it, he says: “I made history in Europe, now it’s time to make history with Saudi.”
According to Italian media, Mancini’s deal is for 25 million euros ($27 million) per year, and the 58-year-old will be introduced to the media at a news conference on Monday.
Mancini is the latest major figure to join Saudi Arabia’s soccer revolution. Clubs in the oil-rich country lavished the cash on a number of star soccer players during the winter, despite ongoing worries from human rights organizations that Saudi Arabia utilizes sports for public relations purposes.
“I am immensely honored to be offered the position as Saudi Arabia national team manager,” Mancini said. “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.
“I firmly believe that the passionate footballing culture of Saudi Arabia and the intrinsic quality of Saudi players are crucial ingredients for success. The presence of top players in the Saudi Pro League indicates the potential for growth in the national football scene.”
Mancini shocked Italian soccer when he stepped down as national team coach earlier this month, capping after an up-and-down stint that featured a European Championship championship in 2021 but also a failure to qualify for last year’s World Cup.
Luciano Spalletti, who led Napoli to the Serie A title last season, took his spot.
Mancini also led Inter Milan to three consecutive Serie A victories from 2005 to 2008, as well as Manchester City to the Premier League title in 2012.
“We are delighted to welcome Roberto Mancini to lead the Green Falcons,” SAFF President Yasser Al Misehal said. “His experience and proven track record at club and international level marks a significant step towards achieving our goals in international football.
“Roberto believes in Saudi football and our desire to develop top competitive players and take them to new heights on the world stage — including the Asian Cup in Qatar and qualification for the 2026 World Cup … We’re a footballing nation and we (are) continuing to invest at every level in our journey to compete with the best in the world on and off the pitch.”
The Asian Cup, which will be hosted by defending champion Qatar, will begin in January. The Saudis, who will host the tournament in 2027, have been assigned to a group that includes Kyrgyzstan, Oman, and Thailand.
Prior to that, Jordan and either Cambodia or Pakistan face off in World Cup qualifiers in November. Tajikistan is likewise a member of Group G.
Players in the Saudi national team now have the opportunity to practice and play alongside a bevy of global players, like Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, who have been drawn to the multi-billion dollar initiative that is the Saudi Pro League.
Saudi Arabia finished fourth in its World Cup group last year, but pulled off one of the tournament’s biggest upsets by defeating eventual champion Argentina in their opener.
“The whole world recognizes the enormous potential of the Saudi Arabia national team during their outstanding performance at the World Cup,” Mancini said. “The scenes of the fans following that victory was immense.
“They left their mark on the global stage, filling Saudi Arabian football fans with immense pride and accelerating the nation’s footballing ambitions. We have the potential to improve further. The squad is strong with talented players. I believe we have what it takes to elevate our game if we work hard.”
The friendlies against Costa Rica and South Korea will take place at St. James’ Park, the stadium of Premier League club Newcastle United, whose principal owner is the Public Investment Fund, which administers $700 billion in Saudi sovereign wealth.