JEDDAH — After a long wait of 14 years, Al-Ittihad, the Jeddah Tigers, emerged champions of the Roshn Saudi League after thrashing Al-Feiha 3-0 in its 29th match of the league on Sunday.
The tearful joy of Nuno Espirito Santo, the Portuguese head coach of Al-Ittihad, when his squad lifted the Saudi Pro League title was in fact an epitome of the glory achieved by Jeddah Tigers in the first ever season after Santo took over at the helm of the club’s technical team.
Speaking to SSC channel, the official broadcaster of the Saudi Pro League, after Sunday’s victory, Santo stressed that Al-Ittihad fans are the source of the team's strength, whether in the matches it played at home or abroad.
He noted that the players gave an outstanding performance.
Overcome with tearful joy over the victory, Santo said: “It is a day of celebration for the fans.”
He also shared three cardinal principles that were the success mantra of his team — hard work, organization and commitment.
Santo scripted his name in the golden annals of Al-Ittihad club after enabling it to lift the league title after a gap of 14 years since the 2008-2009 season.
Santo deserves accolades for enabling Al-Ittihad to win two major competitions in the current season.
First, the Saudi Super Cup and now the Saudi Pro League Trophy. His club has also qualified to participate in the Club World Cup, which will be hosted by Saudi Arabia later this year.
Santo joined Al-Ittihad last July, succeeding Romanian Cosmin Contra, signing a contract that will expire in 2024.
This was after losing his job as head coach of the English club Tottenham Hotspur in November 2021.
Santo previously enjoyed success during his four seasons at Wolverhampton Wanderers, who won promotion to the Premier League in 2018 after a six-year absence and retained their top-flight status. He has also managed Valencia and Porto.
Hiring the Portuguese coach was a turning point for Al-Ittihad that embarked since its brilliant journey. Under Santo, it was an excellent season for Al-Ittihad.
In addition to winning two championships, Santo enabled Al-Ittihad to achieve historic numbers in its career history.
Under Santo, the club has won 21 out of 29 matches the team has played, after drawing in only six matches, and losing two matches. In 29 games, the team has conceded just 13 goals. Al-Ittihad was the least among the 14 league teams that suffered losses.
The Tigers look to the 49-year-old coach in leading the team towards winning more local titles during the coming period, and the return of the golden era of the club.
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