According to a source close to the Saudi Arabian football club Al-Nassr, the team is targeting high-profile coaches Zinedine Zidane and Jose Mourinho as potential candidates to replace Rudi Garcia, who was sacked on Thursday.
Despite being second in the Saudi Pro League with eight games left, the club has ambitious plans for their next head coach and has identified these two Champions League-winning coaches in collaboration with Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese superstar, who joined Al-Nassr in August 2022, is said to wield significant power at his new club, including the hiring and firing of coaches. It has not taken long for his influence to be reflected on the field, with Garcia departing just eight months after his appointment and 12 games into Ronaldo’s career in Saudi Arabia.
“Al-Nassr can announce that head coach Rudi Garcia has left the club by mutual agreement,” said a club statement. “The board and everyone at Al-Nassr would like to thank Rudi and his staff for their dedicated work during the past eight months.”
With ambitious plans to grow the profile of the Saudi league extending to the highest levels of government in the kingdom, Al-Nassr is aiming to secure a marquee head coach to go alongside the highest scorer in men’s international football. An initial verbal offer has reportedly been made to Zidane, who has been out of work since leaving Real Madrid for the second time in 2021, and Ronaldo is said to be involved in those discussions.
Despite Ronaldo’s involvement, sources close to negotiations acknowledge that the situation remains fluid and that there are no guarantees that Zidane will be convinced. The Frenchman has proven to be selective in his projects since moving into management, with frequent links to the likes of Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, and the French national team not leading to returns to the dugout.
Interest has also been expressed in Mourinho, who has been linked with a move away from Roma this summer. The 60-year-old won La Liga and a Copa del Rey with Ronaldo, who scored 168 goals in 164 games during their three seasons together. Mourinho has also been linked with the Saudi Arabia national team job, which is vacant after Herve Renard took over the French women’s team.
Should both of those ambitious swoops fail, Al-Nassr’s shortlist includes Fenerbahce boss Jorge Jesus and Marcelo Gallardo, the widely admired former River Plate boss. This ambitious recruitment strategy is happening alongside other Saudi clubs attempting to bring world-class players such as Lionel Messi and Karim Benzema to the Pro League.
Lionel Messi has reportedly been offered a stunning €400 million a year to move to Al-Hilal, while CBS Sports revealed last week that Al-Ittihad are optimistic they can secure the signature of Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema. With the Saudi league’s profile on the rise and significant investment in top-tier talent, the coming months promise to be an exciting time for football in Saudi Arabia.