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Mancini appointed Saudi Arabia head coach, targets Asian Cup title

ROBERTO Mancini has been named the head coach of the Saudi Arabia national team two weeks after quitting the same position in Italy.

The former Italy striker resigned as his country’s head coach on August 13 and has been replaced with Luciano Spalletti, who led Napoli to their first Serie A title in 33 years last season.

Mancini, 58, was officially presented today after signing a four-year contact reportedly worth €30m per year.

“I want to thank the President for choosing me. I am very proud to be here and to start my work,” the former Manchester City manager said during his presentation press conference.

“I started talking to the Federation in the middle of August. Naturally, some of my assistants did not know of this situation and they need to resolve their situations in Italy. For the moment we are here, the others will join later. We have enough time to do everything.”

Mancini admitted that he did not know enough about the Saudi players, and aimed a dig at Serie A and the large percentage of foreigners at club level.

He said: “I already started watching videos of players over the last 10 days. It is good that the Saudi clubs need at least three local players in each team, because we do not have that in Italy!

“It was really difficult to choose players in Italy and at times we had to pick ones who had never been in Serie A.

“It will take time, but we will work well and know there are many talented players in the Under-21 and youth teams. I am not a magician. We have talent here and will focus on our work.”

The Saudi Pro League has become the new ‘Mecca’ for big-name stars on fat pay packages, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante and Jordan Henderson.

Mancini, who led Italy to the European Championships title in 2021, believes the influx of these top players will help his cause, as he targets major trophies.

“It is positive that these stars arrive, as they will raise the level of the Saudi players too. It happened in Italy many years ago when the first foreign players arrived, they helped raise the level,” he noted.

“Our aim is to win the Asian Cup.”

Saudi Arabia have won the Asian Cup, which is the continent’s version of the Africa Cup of Nations or the European Championships, three times but their last triumph was in 1996.

The next edition will be hosted by defending champions Qatar in January 2024.

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