Roberto Mancini is aiming to restore pride to Italy’s national team as he targets a return to the world’s elite.
The 53-year-old has signed a two-year contract to coach the Azzurri, leaving his post with Zenit St Petersburg to answer the call after Italy failed to qualify for this summer’s World Cup.
At his introductory press conference at Italy’s training ground Coverciano on Tuesday, Mancini said there was much work to be done but his goal was to restore the fortunes of the four-time world champions.
“I’m emotional,” said Mancini, who won 36 caps for Italy as a player. “I want to thank the FIGC for putting their trust in me. I’m very proud of this moment. I first set foot in Coverciano in 1978 with the under-14s. To come back as the head coach is very special.
“To coach the national team is a reason to be proud for anyone. I think it’s the right moment for me. It’s a difficult time and there’s a lot to do.
“I want to be the head coach who brings Italy back to where we belong in Europe and in the world.”
Giampiero Ventura was sacked as coach in November after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years, with under-21 boss Luigi di Biagio taking interim control.
Mancini’s first match in charge will be a friendly against Saudi Arabia on May 28 before matches with France and Holland on June 1 and June 4.
And Mancini hinted his first squad could feature a familiar face from his title-winning sides at both Manchester City and Inter Milan, Mario Balotelli.
The 27-year-old has not played for Italy since the 2014 World Cup, but has rebuilt his reputation with Nice in Ligue 1 after difficult spells with Liverpool and AC Milan.
“Even in difficult times, Italy can boast of having players of great quality,” Mancini said in comments on the FIGC’s social media channels. “I will certainly speak to Balotelli.”
Missing out on Russia 2018 caused significant soul-searching in the country, but Mancini sees a road back.
“The failure to qualify for the World Cup caused mourning and this shows how important it is for our country,” he said.
“I hope I can be the person who brings Italy back to a significant triumph. This is what will unite people more than anything.”