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Saudi Arabia appoint Italy’s Roberto Mancini as national team coach

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Roberto Mancini has been named as the new coach of the Saudi Arabia national team on a deal reported to be worth more than $25m a year, after his surprise decision to quit the Italy job earlier this month.

The Saudis, who beat eventual champions Argentina at last year’s World Cup in Qatar, have been without a coach since Herve Renard left to take charge of France’s women’s team.

Mancini, 58, led Italy to the Euro 2020 title but failed to qualify for last year’s World Cup.

“I am immensely honoured to be offered the position as Saudi Arabia national team manager,” Mancini, who has signed a four-year contract, said on Sunday.

“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.”

He added: “The presence of top players in the Saudi Pro League indicates the potential for growth in the national football scene.”

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude oil exporter, has made waves this summer by buying a host of players from European clubs for teams in the Saudi Pro League.

Brazil star Neymar was the latest in a growing list of big names to be attracted by the huge sums offered by the Saudis after Cristiano Ronaldo kicked off the trend by moving to Al Nassr in January.

Shock move
Mancini’s resignation from the Italy job came as a shock, as earlier this month he had been handed responsibility for the country’s Under-21 and Under-20 teams.

He was heavily criticised for his decision especially following early reports that he was set to accept a mega-money move to Saudi, which he denied was the reason behind his resignation.

Mancini, who was replaced by former Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti, had a mixed time in his five years as Italy coach.

Victory at Euro 2020 seeming to revitalise a troubled football nation. But the Azzurri failed to qualify for last year’s World Cup following a disastrous play-off defeat to North Macedonia, the second straight time they missed the world’s biggest football tournament.

As a player, Mancini won the 1991 Serie A title and four Italian Cups with long-time club Sampdoria, where he starred in attack alongside recently-deceased Gianluca Vialli.

Newspaper La Gazzetta Dello Sport reported on Sunday that Mancini’s contract in Saudi Arabia would come with an annual salary of 25 million euros ($27m).

A Saudi Arabian Football Federation’s (SAFF) statement did not disclose his salary.

“The appointment confirms the new era of growth for the Saudi Arabian national team and marks a new milestone in Mancini’s distinguished career,” the Saudi federation said in a statement confirming Mancini’s appointment.

Mancini was due to arrive in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Monday to be presented to the media.

“We are delighted to welcome Roberto Mancini to lead the Green Falcons,” SAFF President Yasser Al Misehal said.

“His experience and proven track record at club and international level marks a significant step towards achieving our goals in international football.

“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 … We’re a footballing nation and we [are] continuing to invest at every level in our journey to compete with the best in the world on and off the pitch.”

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They still bully me after 14 years – Aiyegbeni on missing tap-in for Nigeria

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Former Super Eagles striker Yakubu Aiyegbeni has cried out over the bullying he suffers in the hands of Nigerians over the goal he missed 13 to 14 years ago.

Nigerian football fanatics are finding it difficult to forget the events of June 22, 2010 when Aiyegbeni missed a tap-in during a World Cup game between Nigeria and South Korea.

The miss came when Nigeria was trailing the Koreans 2-1 in their final Group A match at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, South Africa.

The ‘Yak’ would later score from the penalty spot but Super Eagles fans were, at the time, unable to move past the unbelievable miss.

In a recent interview, the video was shared on social media platform, X, and he cried out that he is still getting messages from angry fans who are demanding an explanation of how he missed the tap-in with the goalkeeper and defenders out of the way.

“I still get messages from people. Different messages. I remember one was sending a message last week and he was like ‘how do you explain that goal missed to you daughter Kayla’ he mentioned my daughter’s name ‘Kayla’. I was like 13 to 14 years ago and people still think about that,” he said.

“I got a message today and someone was like ‘you’re the worst Super Eagles striker’ because of that particular goal I missed. They never think about all the other goals I’ve scored.

“They never think about when I scored goals in Sudan when nobody thought we’d qualify for Korea Japan 2002. We went to Sudan. Nobody ever thought we’d qualify because the weather there was crazy. If we get a draw or lose we’re out.

“There I scored 2 goals. Julius Aghahowa scored one and Jay Jay Okocha, ‘pa Jay’ scored another one. We won 4-0. That gave us the ticket and went to Korea-Japan 2000.

“But people in Nigeria never speak about how I made them qualify but didn’t go to the World Cup. I was shocked. I played 99.9% of every game to qualify Nigeria for Japan/Korea and I was dropped.”

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Inter Miami making Messi work too hard – Coach, Martino

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Inter Miami are expecting too much work from their Argentine star Lionel Messi, coach Gerardo Martino said on Friday, ahead of the team’s Florida derby clash with Orlando City.

Miami are unbeaten in their opening two games, with a home win over Real Salt Lake followed by a draw at the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday.

But with a busy run of fixtures for club and country coming up for Messi this month, Martino says the team need to find a way to reduce the eight-times Ballon d’Or winner’s workload.

“I feel that in these last two matches, he has expended too much energy, and that is also my responsibility to make sure the team operates in a way that we can use him in the best way,” Martino told reporters.

Messi has been playing in a relatively free role, behind former Barcelona team-mate Luis Suarez, often floating deep to find the ball and then seeking to drive his team up the field.

It was Messi’s stoppage time goal that earned Miami a point at the Galaxy but Martino says the performance took a lot out of the 36-year-old.

“I’ve been discussing some things with him and what concerns me the most is the day-to-day and how he is recovering game by game. I feel that in these first two matches, we have relied on him too much, which has caused him significant fatigue in both games,” he said.

The former Argentina and Mexico national team coach said the team have to re-find a way to provide Messi service closer to goal.

“In the Leagues Cup game against Orlando (last season), he often found the ball in the final quarter of the field and was able to finish the play, he scored from inside the area. That’s what we need to get back to, the team finding him to make plays and sometimes finding him for the finishes,” he said.

Miami are hoping their latest Argentine signing, midfielder Federico Redondo will have his paperwork resolved in order to make his debut on Saturday.

 

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Lagos FA Cup Kicks Off With No Sponsor, 80 Clubs Eye Star Prize

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Chairman Lagos State Football Association, LSFA, Ogboni Fouad Oki says this year’s Lagos State Challenge Cup popularly known as Lagos FA Cup would go ahead without sponsor.

The much awaited Lagos FA Cup would kick off on Saturday 2 March 2024 across the designated centers.

No fewer than 80 clubs are expected to participate in this year’s edition.

Although Winners Golden Bet, a well known Betting Company has been sponsoring the Lagos FA Cup more than six years, but the company is not part of this year’s edition which gives football stakeholders a lot of concerns.

Oki explained that he is not disturbed that no company or individual has partnered with the association for FA Cup but remained optimistic that the competition would get a sponsor before it gets to the quarter final stage.

“I am not too bothered about the sponsorship of the competition.If you look at the country presently, many companies are still struggling to survive but i want to assure the participating teams and football fans before the tournament reaches quarter final, sponsor would surely come.

“We the organising committee are still working on the possibility to get one or two sponsors on board.Like i said i am not really worried and the most important things is that the competition would kick off on Saturday,”he said.

The Lagos FA boss expressed satisfaction with the number of teams that are participating in this year’s edition.

He disclosed that the state has largest number of entries among the states in the country and charged the teams that would represent the the state to do well in the Federation Cup and possibly win the trophy.

“Lagos has number of entries compare to other states that have less than 10 teams in their state’s FA Cup.If we have such numbers of teams registered and i expect any team that would represent Lagos should make us proud and bring the Federation Cup back to the state,”he said.

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