RIYADH: Roberto Mancini has been named Saudi Arabia coach after quitting the Italy job earlier this month, the Saudi National Team announced on social media on Sunday.
According to Italian newspaper La Gazzetta Dello Sport, Mancini will sign a four-year contract and will be officially announced and presented to media on Monday.
The Green Falcons, who beat eventual champions Argentina at last year’s World Cup in Qatar, have been without a national team coach since Herve Renard left to take charge of France’s women’s team.
The Kingdom has made headlines this summer by buying a host of top players from European clubs for teams in the Saudi Pro League.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Neymar Jr are among a host of superstar names who have joined the SPL.
Mancini, who has been replaced by former Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti as Italy’s coach, had a mixed time in the job; the victory at Euro 2020 the standout moment.
But he failed to qualify for last year’s World Cup following a disastrous play-off defeat to North Macedonia, the second time in a row they missed the world’s biggest football tournament.
“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,” he added.
He continued: “The presence of top players in the Saudi Pro League indicates the potential for growth in the national football scene.
“The whole world recognizes the enormous potential of the Saudi Arabia national team during their outstanding performance at the World Cup. 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,” he added.
Mancini’s first match managing the Saudi Arabia national team is set for September 8, when the Green Falcons face Costa Rica in an international friendly.
On September 12, Saudi Arabia will take on South Korea in another international friendly. Both matches take place at St James’ Park in Newcastle, England.
The matches serve as part of preparations for the team’s 2026 FIFA World Cup - Asian Qualifying campaign, which commences in November
“We are delighted to welcome Roberto to lead the Green Falcons. His experience and proven track record at club and international level marks a significant step towards achieving our goals in international football,” said Saudi Football Federation president Yasser Al-Misehal.
“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,” he added.
“The energy, optimism and growth of Saudi football at all levels is inspiring our country, our men’s, women’s and youth teams have made their mark across the Middle East and Asia.
“We’re a footballing nation and we continuing to invest at every level in our journey to compete with the best in the world on and off the pitch.”