Saudi Arabia signs Frank Rijkaard as national football coach


The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) announced on Friday the signing of the former Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard of the Netherlands to train the Saudi national team.

Mr. Rijkaard signed a three-year deal believed to be worth $15.9 million at the Saudi embassy in London.

The former Netherlands midfielder was fired as Barcelona coach in 2008 after five years at the club, leading the team to two Spanish championships and the Champions League title in 2006. His last coaching assignment was with Turkish club Galatasaray.

Once among the top teams in Asia, Saudi Arabia has been without a coach since crashing out of the Asian Cup in January.

A deal was signed with Ricardo Gomes but it was canceled after Saudi Arabia rejected his demands for taking over.

Saudi Arabia has appeared in four World Cups, but its fortunes have declined since reaching the 2006 tournament. The team missed out on the 2010 event and has fallen to 92nd in the FIFA world rankings after reaching a high of 23rd in 2004.

Saudi Arabia’s low point came earlier this year after being knocked out of the Asian Cup, a tournament it has won three times, in the group stage after an opening loss to Syria. The team’s Portuguese coach was fired after the loss. His successor, Nassir al-Johar, was sacked after the campaign ended with a 5-0 loss to Japan.

After the tournament, King Abdullah removed Prince Sultan Bin Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as football federation president.

(Mustapha Ajbaili, a senior editor at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at [email protected])