RIYADH: Roberto Mancini was officially unveiled as the new manager of the Saudi national team during a ceremony in Riyadh on Monday, a day after his appointment was announced.
During the event, Yasser Al-Misehal, the president of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, expressed his excitement at securing the services of an internationally acclaimed coach to lead the Green Falcons, as he highlighted the Italian’s exceptional achievements and passion for the sport.
“There was some time in finalizing the deal for the Saudi national team manager and everyone knows the importance and sensitivity of this matter,” he said.
“Therefore, it deserved sufficient time to be settled in a distinguished manner. We are proud of our success in attracting a global coach, a coach who has achieved significant accomplishments and still possesses great passion for the game.
“We are fortunate that we have great support from our leadership and we have a significant responsibility to keep up with this support. Saudi Arabia has become attractive to all global names.”
Mancini discussed his initial plans and aspirations for the team. Not surprisingly, the first priority is getting to know the players and identifying key members of his squad.
“The next 10 days are important to see the players, and also in the past 10 days we have watched lots of videos on the teams and players,” he said.
“We have four friendly matches before the 2026 World Cup qualifiers, and we have enough time.”
He acknowledged the existing talent within the national team but added: “I am not a magician; we have exceptional talents and we can achieve our goals through continuous work.
“We have good players, the previous coach did a great job, and in the coming period we need to translate our words into reality on the field. Like I said before, we have good talent but we can achieve our goals by working hard.
“Our target is to win the Asian Cup after 27 years. Our target before that is we have four friendlies, we have two World Cup qualifiers, and after that we have a 20-day camp to prepare for the Asian Cup.”
Asked about the current football landscape in Saudi Arabia, with the arrival in recent months of several international stars to play in the Pro League, Mancini drew parallels with his home country.
“The same thing happened in Italy many years ago,” he said. “Lots of big foreign players came to Italy and we improved a lot. It’s good for the Saudi players and we have enough time to choose our players and we are prepared for that.”
Mancini takes over as manager from Frenchman Herve Renard, who stepped down in March after leading Saudi Arabia to the World Cup in Qatar. They were knocked out in the group stage but along the way shocked eventual tournament winners Argentina by defeating them 2-1 in their opening group game.