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Poland hires Fernando Santos as coach of the men’s national team until the 2026 FIFA World Cup

Fernando Santos (left) is unveiled as the head coach of Poland national soccer team in Warsaw January 24.WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Fernando Santos is moving from Cristiano Ronaldo’s managership to the leader of another football great, Robert Lewandowski.

A month after being split from his native Portugal, Santos was unveiled in Warsaw on Tuesday as the coach of Poland’s national team, which will cover the 2024 European Championship and 2026 World Cup.

Santos, 68, became Poland’s third foreign-born coach – after Leo Beenhakker and Paulo Sousa – and comes with experience from managing high-profile players like Ronaldo, whom Santos even touched on during the knockout rounds of the World Cup last month bench sat .

Now Santos will coach a team led by Lewandowski, the Barcelona forward who is nearing the end of his career at 34 and may only have the 2024 European Championship and possibly the 2026 World Cup left to advance to international level to play.

“We want to be in the group stage of the Euro and then keep winning,” said Santos, who expressed his belief that Poland has the potential to rival any team in the world.

“From today I’m Pole, I’m one of you,” said Santos in his first comments as a coach after welcoming the media conference in Polish.

Santos’ assistants include Poles who are gaining experience for the future. Polish Football Union chairman Cezary Kulesza said it was one of the conditions for Santos’ recruitment.

Santos is tasked with improving Poland’s stunning record in recent major tournaments.

Since 1986, the national team has only advanced from the group stage at one World Cup (2022) and one European Championship (2016).

Known as a pragmatic, defensive coach, Santos has a solid reputation at international level. In eight years with Portugal, he led the team to the title of Euro 2016 – the country’s first international trophy – and its first Nations League title in 2019. He also coached Greece at Euro 2012, where they reached the quarter-finals, and in 2014 World Championship.

When asked about Lewandowski’s future role, Santos – without naming the striker – said that every single talent should have a chance to shine on the pitch but also be part of the team.

Kulesza said his criteria when selecting the new coach were experience in charge of a national team, past achievements, charisma and experience working with stars.

“We can afford to have the best coach available now,” said Kulesza.

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he believed “our national team and all the fans will have many wonderful moments with the new coach”.

Poland have not renewed the contract of Santos’ predecessor Czeslaw Michniewicz after reaching the last 16 of a World Cup for the first time in 36 years. Michniewicz’s contract ended on December 31.

Former Portugal and South Korea coach Paulo Bento and Liverpool great Steven Gerrard, who was recently sacked by Aston Villa in the Premier League, have been linked with the job after the Polish Football Association announced it would hire a foreign coach.

Santos’ greater experience could have made all the difference. When it was clear on Monday that Santos would be signed, Polish Sport Minister Kamil Bortniczuk tweeted his congratulations to the Football Union on its decision, calling Santos a hugely successful coach with “experience of working with big stars” like Ronaldo.

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