Malta national teams head coach Devis Mangia could be on the brink of taking over at NK Rijeka, Croatian media reported.
The news, first reported by Croatian portal Germanijak, comes just a few days after Mangia registered his 14th positive result at the helm of the Maltese team following a 1-0 victory over San Marino.
Yesterday, Rijeka held a press conference to launch their new campaign after starting their pre-season camp and hinted that they were set to appoint a new foreign coach in charge, without mentioning Mangia.
“Our goal is to solve the coaching situation this week,” Rijeka’s Sporting Director Robert Palicuka told the news conference.
“What we have planned is very complicated but I cannot say why.
“In football, some situations take time and we want a completely new professional staff. What we have chosen is the best solution for Rijeka.”
Palicuka’s words continued to increase speculation on the possibility of Mangia stepping down from his job with the Malta FA and heading to Croatia’s top-flight.
“More or less everything has been somehow agreed, but the conclusion of the deal may take a few more days,” he added.
Asked if the new coach is Croatian, Palicuka replied, “No, he is a foreigner.”
Rijeka’s coaching post is currently vacant following the resignation of former coach Goran Tomic, two days after Rijeka lost 3-1 in the Croatian Cup final against Hajduk Split.
Mangia is heavily linked with this job with Croatian reports saying that it is a matter of days before the Italian tactician starts his new adventure at Rijeka.
Germanijak in fact, said that although Mangia has not signed yet, the situation should be resolved in the coming days.
The former Italy U-21 coach has a contract with the Malta Football Association until December 31, 2023.
Contacted by the Times of Malta, MFA president Bjorn Vassallo said that he had already held initials talks with Mangia and the matter will now be discussed during the Executive Board meeting scheduled for today.
“I told Devis Mangia that we will be discussing the matter tomorrow (today) with the Executive Board,” Malta FA president Bjorn Vassallo told the Times of Malta.
“Mangia spoke to me and some other officials following the San Marino match because he wanted to let us know directly himself before the news goes public.
“He revealed that he was contacted and had received an offer but at the same time, he wanted to discuss the long-term plan of the association since he is still under contract with us as the Head Coach of the National Teams.”
Vassallo heaped praise on Mangia’s work as Malta coach having registered 14 positive results in 26 international games. Malta currently sits 159th in the FIFA rankings.
“The interest shown in Devis Mangia reflects the sterling work he is doing with Malta,” Vassallo explained.
“As soon as this news started to spread around, everyone started to call me because everyone wants the MFA to keep him on board.
“Whatever decision will be taken, it will be for the benefit of the Maltese game.”
Mangia took over in December 2019 following a spell in Romanian football at Universitatea Craiova, with whom he won the Romanian cup.
Reports said yesterday that Rijeka’s alternatives for Mangia are Marin Pusic, Feyenoord’s assistant manager and Matjaz Kek, current Slovenia coach.
Dragan Tadic and Fausto Budicin are currently serving as interim coaches as Rijeka started their new season with 24 players.
Rijeka will stay in Rujevica until June 25 before they continue their preparations in Kranjska, Slovenia between June 26 and July 8.
So far, Rijeka have planned three pre-season friendlies against NK Bravo, NK Kranj and Sparta Prague.