Roberto Mancini has set his sights on guiding Saudi Arabia to victory in the upcoming Asian Cup tournament as he finalized a lucrative multi-million dollar contract on Monday. This move comes just two weeks after stepping down as the coach of Italy.
The former manager of Inter Milan and Manchester City proudly displayed a green jersey emblazoned with “Mancini 2027” after formalizing his commitment to lead the Green Falcons beyond the next World Cup. Despite having refuted any connection between his abrupt departure from Italy and the oil-rich nation, Mancini reportedly received an offer exceeding $25 million to join the well-funded Saudi team.
In response to inquiries about his promises to the Saudi people, Mancini commented, “I’m not a magician.” However, he expressed determination to secure Asian Cup victory during the tournament scheduled for January to February in Qatar. Mancini emphasized, “Our target is to try to win the Asian Cup after 27 years.”
He added, “We know that there are many top teams like Japan, Australia, and South Korea. But I’m sure that we’ll go there and we’ll try to win.”
At 58, Mancini is the latest prominent addition to Saudi Arabia’s football scene, which has recently welcomed renowned players like Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Karim Benzema to the Saudi Pro League.
Saudi Arabia’s ambitions of fostering a competitive national team align with broader objectives to reshape its economy and enhance the country’s global image. The Saudi football transformation has been a focal point of this strategy.
Ranked 54th globally, Saudi Arabia aims to strengthen its football stature and compete more effectively with Asian Football Confederation peers. The nation’s women’s team, introduced last year, occupies the 172nd spot out of 186 teams.
The Green Falcons, having surprised the world by defeating eventual champions Argentina during last year’s World Cup group stage, have been without a coach since March. Mancini’s appointment follows Herve Renard’s departure to lead France’s women’s team.
Mancini’s illustrious career features numerous triumphs, including Serie A titles and Italian Cups with Sampdoria, as well as Scudetti wins at Inter Milan and a Premier League title with Manchester City. His first match as Saudi Arabia’s coach will be a friendly against Costa Rica on September 8, followed by another friendly against South Korea on September 12 in Newcastle. Both matches will be held at St James’ Park, the home of Newcastle United, which is also owned by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.