Mancini takes Saudi Arabia role and sets sights on Asian Cup 2023

August 28 – Just two weeks after quitting the Italian men’s national team, Roberto Mancini has been appointed coach of the Saudi Arabia national team.

Having guided Italy to the Euro 2021 championship, Mancini said “target is to win the Asian Cup after 27 years”. He will have the opportunity to do that in January/February 2024 when the next edition of the 24-team Asian Cup finals is played in Qatar.

Before then the Saudis have four friendly matches and two World Cup qualifiers before going into a 20-day camp before the Asian Cup.

With the September international fixture window fast approaching, Mancini said: “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. We have four friendly matches before the 2026 World Cup qualifiers, and we have enough time.”

Having had a club management career that included two spells at Inter Milan as well four years at Manchester City, Mancini took charge of Italy in 2018 after they failed to qualify for the Russia World Cup.

Although taking Italy to their second European Championship win in 2021 and going 37 matches unbeaten – a world record – Italy failed to reach the World Cup for the second time in a row in 2022 after a surprise play-off loss to North Macedonia.

Saudi Arabian Football Federation President Yasser Al Misehal commented on the appointment saying: “There was some time in finalising the deal for the Saudi national team manager and everyone knows the importance and sensitivity of this matter. 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.”

With Saudi Arabia having seen an influx of big name overseas signings going into the new Saudi Pro League season,  Mancini drew parallels to his experiences in Italy, saying: “The same thing happened in Italy many years ago, 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.”

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