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Al Shehri targets Saudi Arabian success


Becoming an established, top-flight, coach is tough anywhere in the world, but especially so in Saudi Arabia. The country’s Pro League has very high standards, with a slew of ambitious teams tending to employ elite foreign coaches, obliging their local counterparts to raise their game in order to match them.

Saudi native Saad Al-Shehri is one example of someone determined to do just that. Despite the significant challenges of gaining experience, realising his ambitions and keeping his sides competitive, the coach has made a lot of astute choices and has had consistent success along the way.

His first notable achievement came as coach of Al-Nassr’s U-19s, who he led to victory in the Saudi Pro Youth League in 2015. He then steered the Saudi U-20 team to the Asian Cup final in 2016 and the round of 16 at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2017™, where they lost to then South American champions Uruguay 1-0.

One example of his sound judgment was when he turned down the offer to succeed Fabio Cannavaro as Al-Nassr head coach, believing the timing not to be right. Following his successes at youth national team level, the former midfielder agreed to fill the coaching vacancy at Al-Ettifaq for the second half of the 2017-2018 season. He again proved his worth by guiding them to fourth, with the club having been in 13th place and in danger of relegation when he took over.

His decision to take up the reins of the Saudi U-23 team in 2018 would also prove to be a sound one. Al-Shehri continued his run of success by steering the side to qualification for Tokyo 2020, which saw the Green Falcons compete at the Games for the first time since 1996.

Two years later, the team won the AFC U-23 Asian Cup for the first time; that triumph saw Al-Shehri nominated for the AFC Coach of the Year award in 2022 where he would finish third behind Japan’s Hajime Moriyasu.

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