Marcelo Gallardo appointed as new Al Ittihad manager

Roshn Saudi League champions Al Ittihad announced on Saturday night the appointment of Marcelo Gallardo as their new coach on an 18-month contract, through to the end of the 2024-25 season.

The 47-year-old Argentine arrives to Saudi Arabia for his first overseas managerial experience following a highly decorated eight-year spell with his childhood club River Plate in which he led them to seven domestic and six continental trophies including the Copa Libertadores, South America’s prime club competition, in 2015 and 2018.

A creative midfielder in his playing days, Gallardo was best known for his success at River Plate, where he came through the ranks and went on to play for a decade over three different spells. On the European stage, Gallardo wore the colours of French sides Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain.

At international level, he won 44 caps for Argentina including at the 1998 FIFA World Cup where they reached the quarter-finals. He was also part of the Albiceleste squad for the 2002 edition, despite not making any appearances in that edition. Gallardo also won silver at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.

Gallardo becomes the fifth Argentinian to coach Al Ittihad. Former Tottenham Hotspur icon Osvaldo Ardiles was the first from the South American nation to manage the Jeddah club, back in 2001, followed by Gabriel Calderon between 2008 and 2010, Enzo Trossero in 2010 and finally Ramon Diaz in 2018.

The first challenge of Gallardo’s career in Saudi Arabia will be taking on Steven Gerrard’s Al Ettifaq in Dammam on Friday.

Al Ittihad had parted ways with Portuguese coach Nuno Espirito Santo earlier this month after a run of five winless matches in a row saw them slip to sixth in the table, before moving one place up after beating Abha 4-2 in their most recent outing under interim coach Hassan Khalifa.

The two-time Asian champions are also set to represent Saudi Arabia at the FIFA Club World Cup 2023, taking place in Jeddah next month, with their first match seeing them play New Zealand’s Auckland City on the 12th of December.