As you may be aware, the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be held in a land known as Qatar, a country situated on an expanse of warm, dry land known as the Arabian Peninsula. Here’s visual proof of the claim, if you are willing to squint:
Other than in a very literal context, the Arabian Peninsula isn’t exactly a hotbed for soccer. But what countries in this part of the world lack in footballing pedigree they make up for in positively stupid amounts of cash.
Take Saudi Arabia. In an effort to remedy the former condition by taking advantage of the latter — and boosting its national team program ahead of the closest thing it’ll (hopefully) ever see to a World Cup at home — the nation is reportedly offering Marcelo Bielsa 10 million euros per year to guide the Green Falcons through the next two World Cup cycles.
Bielsa is currently in his first season as head coach at Marseille in Ligue 1, and he has prior national team experience with Chile and Argentina. Still, the Marseille job seems like a pretty good gig for Bielsa. It’s the second biggest club in France, and anything it wins is a bonus; no sane person expects Marseille to compete competition-for-competition with Qatari-funded Paris Saint-Germain. Plus, Marseille offers all the coffee he can almost drink.
What would make Bielsa leave such a cushy spot? Maybe he, too, is aware that, while his trademark pressing system is always fun and effective when its brand new, opponents eventually catch on to it, and his players tend to wear out and get sick of him in short fashion. After an Arabian-hot start to this season, Marseille has drifted back to fourth place.
Maybe he sees the Saudi Arabia job as an opportunity to do something great in the international game; awaken a sleeping giant, or something. He could go down as a hero for bringing the Saudis to two Wold Cups and leading them to a respectable finish in their backyard, on the world’s biggest stage.
Or maybe an admirer has offered him 10 million euros per year. Bielsa’s initial contact with the Saudi Arabia Football Federation came through His Royal Highness, Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al Saud, who made a failed attempt to buy Marseille last year.