Roberto Mancini said Monday his Saudi Arabia squad had a “problem” with players not getting enough game time ahead of the Asian Cup, as domestic clubs spend big on foreign stars.
Saudi Pro League sides have splashed the cash on the likes of Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo, part of a broader move into sport that will see the country host the 2034 World Cup.
The Saudis start their Asian Cup campaign against Oman on Tuesday led by Mancini, who most recently won the European Championships with his native Italy.
Speaking on the eve of the match in Qatar, Mancini said he was happy with pre-tournament preparations but noted that not all of his players were getting as much action with their clubs as he would like.
“Maybe we have problems with some Saudi players because they don’t play many games, and this is the problem,” he said when asked about the country’s big-spending strategy.
“We have many players who often don’t play in their clubs.”
“All the players that play for Oman play all the games in the league,” he added, saying he expected a “very hard game” against their rivals in Group F, which also includes Thailand and Kyrgyzstan.
The Saudis beat eventual champions Argentina in the group phase of the 2022 World Cup and return to Qatar for the Asian Cup as one of the favourites.
Several players who appeared in the win over Argentina just over a year ago have lost their club places because of the influx of overseas talent.
The impact has been keenly felt at Al-Hilal, who as well as Neymar signed Serbian pair Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Aleksandar Mitrovic, Brazilian Malcom, Portugal’s Ruben Neves and Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly over the summer.
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