Luciano Spalletti has been dismissed as coach of FC Zenit after overseeing a start to 2014 as disappointing as the club's finish to 2013.
The Italian coach, who turned 55 on Friday, paid the price for a run of just one win in 11 competitive outings. The St Petersburg outfit lost 4-2 to Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie and struggled at home again on Sunday, drawing 0-0 with lowly FC Tom Tomsk on their Premier-Liga return after the winter break.
"It is clear to me that a coach will be asked questions in the absence of proper performances and results – that is fair enough," said Spalletti following a stalemate that meant Zenit relinquished top spot in the Russian table. The ex-Udinese Calcio and AS Roma boss will not get to answer those questions himself, however, as he makes way for former Russia midfielder Sergei Semak, who will lead the side on an interim basis.
The decision ends a successful four-year tenure for Spalletti, who guided the team to two league titles, having delivered the club's first Russian Cup in 11 years soon after his December 2009 appointment. A two-time UEFA Champions League quarter-finalist with Roma, he also broke new ground in Europe's premier club competition by steering Zenit through to the knockout stage for the first time in 2011/12.
He repeated that this term but the Sine-Belo-Golubye have it all to do going into the round of 16 second leg in Dortmund next Wednesday. Before then, his successor Semak faces a trip to Russian champions PFC CSKA Moskva. The Army Men are among the 38-year-old's erstwhile employers, and he also had spells at Paris Saint-Germain, FC Moskva, FC Rubin Kazan and Zenit before retiring last year. He has since been working as Spalletti's assistant.
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