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Mancini says Saudi Arabia ‘nothing to do’ with Italy exit

Roberto Mancini insists that a potential move to the Saudi Arabia national team is not the reason for his sudden and highly criticised decision to quit Italy.

Mancini resigned on Sunday with less than a month until European champions Italy recommence their bid to qualify for Euro 2024 and has reportedly been offered 25 million euros to coach the Gulf nation.

But in interviews with four Italian newspapers all published on Tuesday he says he has made no decision about his future.

“I’m a football manager and when I receive an offer that I like I will accept it. But that’s not why I quit the national team,” said Mancini to Corriere Dello Sport.

“Italy was always the number one for me. After many years I’ve received plenty of offers which I will look at in the coming weeks but right now there is nothing solid.

“I’m a manager and I can’t just stop… but Saudi Arabia has nothing to do with it.”

Mancini 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 and the country no longer produces the sort of world class talent which helped make Serie A the world’s top football league.

Mancini’s resignation comes as a major shock, as earlier this month the 58-year-old had been handed responsibility for the country’s Under-21 and Under-20 teams.

He was heavily criticised for his decision especially following reports that he was set to accept a mega-money move to Saudi.

But Mancini said that he stepped down as Azzurri coach because of disagreements with the head of Italy’s football federation Gabriele Gravina, in particular over his decision to make changes to his coaching staff.

“Have you ever seen the head of the federation change a manager’s coaching staff? I’m the one who should be making changes,” he said to La Repubblica.

“The truth is that we’ve been on a different wavelength for a while. But why make changes to my staff? At that point he should have sacked me… if he wanted to keep me, he could have. but he didn’t want to.”

Italy face North Macedonia and Ukraine in the Euro 2024 qualifiers next month and the federation is scrambling for a coach who can ensure they don’t miss out on yet another major tournament.

Luciano Spalletti, Serie A winner with Napoli last season, and former Italy coach Antonio Conte are the favourites for the post.

Despite quitting Napoli after winning their first league title since 1990 Spalletti is still under contract until June next year.

A clause in that deal says he is free to coach another team with payment of three million euros in compensation, a sum which decreases by 250,000 euros each month until the end of his contract.

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