Zenit St Petersburg put their ambition on show with hire of Villas-Boas

Former Tottenham coach invokes Peter the Great during his first day on the job

Zenit St Petersburg's new head coach Andre Villas-Boas, right, shakes hands with Zenit president Alexander Dukov during a news conference for his presentation in St Petersburg, Russia, on March 20, 2014. Anatoly Maltsev / EPA
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Agence France-Presse

Former Porto, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas on Thursday set high ambitions on his first day of work as manager of Zenit St Petersburg, saying he wanted to build up the team just as Peter the Great had constructed the Russian city.

Zenit have brought in Villas-Boas, 36, as manager in the hope he can take the side to European glory after dismissing his predecessor Luciano Spalletti for failing to win more big silverware.

The owners of the St Petersburg team, Russian state gas giant Gazprom, want his side to make an impact in the Uefa Champions League next season after they went out of this season's competition in a 5-4 aggregate defeat to Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday, despite winning the second leg in Germany 2-1.

“I want to do the same for your team as Peter the Great did for St Petersburg,” Villas-Boas said, referring to the Russian tsar who founded the former imperial capital in 1703. “It is a fantastic city.”.

Villas-Boas said he had not hesitated to take the job, just three months after he left Tottenham, and said he would be learning Russian.

“I saw the big ambitions of the leadership in the shape of Gazprom,” Villas-Boas said. “I was happy to be invited as it is in line with my goals and my ambitions. I hope to achieve good results with Zenit.”

Villas-Boas said his aim for the rest of the season was to win the remaining nine matches in the Russian Premier League and take the Russian title.

Zenit are locked in a tight championship tussle with a resurgent Lokomotiv Moscow.

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