Zenit St. Petersburg announces Mircea Lucescu as new manager

Zenit St. Petersburg announces Mircea Lucescu as new manager
Russian Football Premier League team Zenit St. Petersburg has announced that Mircea Lucescu will be their new manager, taking over from Andre Villas-Boas, who has left the club after two years in charge.

Romanian Lucescu has signed a two-year deal, with the club announcing the news on Tuesday.

The 70-year-old arrives at Zenit having spent the last 12 years managing Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine, where he won eight league titles as well as the UEFA Cup in 2009.

He also guided the club to the Europa League semi-finals this season, losing out to eventual winners Sevilla.

Earlier this season it was announced that Villas-Boas, 38, had opted to turn down a contract extension at Zenit, saying that he intends to take a break from the game.

The Portuguese won the Russian Premier League in his first full season at the club, and also guided Zenit to the Russian Super Cup in 2015 and the Russian Cup in 2016.

He took the club to the knock-out stages of the Champions League this season, having finished the group stage unbeaten. However, Zenit was beaten 3-1 on aggregate by Portuguese side Benfica at the Round of 16 stage. 

In the Russian Premier League this season, the club only managed a third-place finish, meaning they failed to qualify for next season's Champions League.

READ MORE: Rostov falls short as CSKA wins Russian Premier League 

Lucescu brings a wealth of experience to the club, having had a coaching career that has taken in spells with the Romanian national team in the 1980s, and later on at clubs in Italy – including at Inter Milan – and Turkey, before moving to Shakhtar.

After the appointment was announced, Lucescu said: “Being the coach at Zenit is a great honour for me. We talked a lot back when I worked at Shakhtar and I know the potential of this team, I know the fans know what they want from Zenit and their football, to achieve success in Europe,” the club’s official website reported.

“Zenit has everything I need for the job. We had a very professional meeting with the leadership of the club, I looked at the new stadium and Zenit has great potential.”

He will start work in his new post from June 1, according to local media, with reports that he will have the option of a 12-month extension on his initial two-year deal.

A number of other top European names had been linked with the Zenit job, including Manchester City’s outgoing boss Manuel Pellegrini.   

READ MORE: Zenit offer Pellegrini 2-year contract – reports

However, now the decision has been made, the club will look to start planning for a title challenge next season and a return to the Champions League.  

Lucescu will be especially hopeful of holding on to Zenit’s big stars such as Brazilian forward Hulk and Belgian international Axel Witsel, who may be the target of offers now that Zenit cannot provide Champions League football next season.