Yesterday the head of the SAFF, Adel Ezzat, promised they would make an announcement regarding Bauza’s successor within the next 10 days.
Arab News can exclusively reveal that Spain’s World Cup-winning coach Vicente Del Bosque (pictured below) was approached for the job. A SAFF official told Arab News that the man who also led Real Madrid to two Champions League titles was sounded out but turned the opportunity down.
That is, however, the level of candidate the SAFF are after, as the team braces to learn their group opponents with the draw taking place in Moscow next week. We look at four names who could be in the running to replace Bauza in one of the hottest managerial seats in world football.
Bauza’s countryman is currently preparing for one of the most important matches of his coaching career as his Al-Hilal side take on Urawa Reds in the second leg of the AFC Champions League final tomorrow. Diaz’s squad contains the core of the Saudi Arabia national team with 12 international players playing their football for the Riyadh giants, so familiarity with the players and local football is a big advantage for the 58-year-old.
Diaz is not short of international football experience either, having represented Argentina 22 times, including at the 1982 World Cup. As a coach, he led Paraguay to an impressive fourth place finish at the 2015 Copa America, knocking out both Uruguay and Brazil.
Whether Al-Hilal are ready to part way with the man who brought them their first league title in six years, may depend on the outcome of tomorrow’s showdown in Saitama, but Diaz ticks many of the boxes for the SAFF should he become available.
Bert van Marwijk
The Dutchman led Saudi Arabia to the World Cup for the first time in 12 years, and is considered by many the best coach the team has seen in recent years. Differences over how much time Van Marwijk should spend in the country meant a deal to renew his contract was not possible and he left in September.
Various media outlets in the Netherlands claimed the SAFF has contacted him again, and the overwhelming sentiment among Green Falcons fans remains that he is the right man to lead the side in Russia. Those reports also have him refusing the SAFF’s offer but, crucially, not completely ruling out a return.
The seemingly niggling issue of Van Marwijk’s permanent base must be addressed and a new deal to be struck if he is to return to Riyadh. The 65-year-old knows a thing or two about managing in the World Cup, having led the Netherlands to the 2010 final which they lost in added time to Spain.
Another Dutchman linked to the job is former Everton coach Ronald Koeman. One of the biggest names in the history of Dutch football as a player in the 1980s and early 1990s, the defender was part of Barcelona’s “Dream Team” that won the 1992 European Cup. After hanging his boots in 1997, he built a reputation as a tactically astute coach leading a plethora of European clubs like Ajax, Benfica and Southampton.
Koeman’s tactical style is similar to that of Van Marwijk’s, blending elements of Dutch football including its trademark 4-3-3 formation with a distinct disciplinarian style. The Dutchman’s lack of international experience could be one disadvantage that counts against him in the race to succeed Bauza.
Luiz Felipe Scolari
The most experienced of the names linked with the job is Luiz Felipe Scolari. The Brazilian’s most recent World Cup memory is one that he, and every Brazilian wish to forget; a 0-7 humbling at home at the hands of Germany in the World Cup semi-final was the worst defeat in the Selecao’s decorated history.
But that result should by no means define “Big Phil.” The 69-year-old had previously led Brazil to World Cup glory in 2002. Two years later, he took Portugal to the fringe of winning their first European Championship on home soil before losing the final to dark horses Greece. Scolari ticks the international experience box comfortably, but he also somewhat ticks the local knowledge box. At various stages of his long career, Scolari has managed Saudi clubs Al-Ahli and Al-Shabab as well as the Kuwait national team. It may have been three decades since he last managed in the region, but Scolari is no stranger to the mindset of Middle Eastern players.