2010 – today
The Luciano Spalletti glory years
The club went into the new decade under the stewardship of Luciano Spalletti who signed with us in St. Petersburg in December 2009. Tasked with winning the league title and progressing in the UEFA Champions League, the Italian manager made a winning start by winning the Russian Cup in May 2010 defeating Sibir Novosibirsk in the final.
In early October, Zenit set a Russian Premier League record of 21 games undefeated and did not lose a RFPL game until the end of that month and with just seven league games remaining in that campaign. The blue-white-sky blues wrapped up the league title with two games to spare and Luciano Spalletti lifted the 2010 league title in his first season with the club, Zenit’s third title overall.
The following season had a shift to the more common European football calendar of Autumn – Spring football and the 2011/12 season started in perfect fashion with a defeat of CSKA Moscow in the Russian Super Cup. This was followed by progress to the knock-out stages of the UEFA Champions League and by the end of the year the club could claim back-to-back league titles with that season’s RFPL trophy retuning to St. Petersburg.
2012 also saw the arrival of one of the club’s most legendary players, the Brazilian international striker Hulk joined Zenit in a big money deal from Porto. He went on to set light to the Russian top division and scored 77 goals in 148 appearances for Zenit, finishing with the league’s golden boot in 2014/15 with 15 goals.
2012 also saw another superstar join us from Portugal. Belgium midfield playmaker Axel Witsel came to Zenit from Benfica. He went on to play more than one hundred games for us and became a firm fan favourite along the way.
After a dip in form in both the Champions League and the Russian Football Premier League, Luciano Spalletti left us in March 2014. He was replaced soon after by former Chelsea and Porto manager Andre Villas-Boas and the Portuguese tactician lead the blue-white-sky blues to the club’s fifth league title in 2014–15. Meaning we were able to add a gold star to the club’s crest.
AVB, Mancini and a new era
The blue-white-sky blues then went on to have one of their most memorable European campaigns that season. Being drawn in the Champions League Group H alongside Valencia, Lyon and Gent, Zenit went on to have their best group stage finish ever, winning five matches in a row and going through as group winners. Eventually going out of the competition due to a last minute winner from Benfica. AVB left the club at the end of the season but before departing, he saw Zenit lift the 2015/16 Russian Cup for the fourth time with a 4-1 destruction of CSKA Moscow in Kazan. Hulk and Witsel also departed St. Petersburg heading to China to help establish the new Chinese Super league.
Mircea Lucescu replaced the popular Portuguese manager at the start of the 2016/17 season and began his managerial reign with another Super Cup victory for the blue-white-sky blues, the club’s fourth win in that competition since 2008. However, the Romanian would only spend a solitary season in the Northern Capital and a memorable Europa League campaign being the main highlight. The 4-3 comeback win away to Maccabi Tel-Aviv and victories over AZ Alkmaar and Dundalk led the fans to believe European success was possible, but an away goals exit to Anderlecht in the first knockout stage burst that bubble and it seemed Lucescu’s side never recovered from that defeat. A disappointing rest of the season saw Zenit finish third in the league and knocked out early in the Cup. The arrival and performances of Brazilian Giuliano was one of the other bright spots with the attacking midfielder scoring eight goals in ten games in our Europa League adventure. However the was one huge positive we could take from the season. The club finally moved into our new home – Stadium St. Petersburg! Japan’s Kisho Kurokawa designed our new spaceship-looking stadium and its first game was our 2-0 win over Ural on 22 April 2017 and Branislav Ivanovic scored the first goal in the stadium's history. The state-of-the-art arena would go on to host seven games at the 2018 World Cup, including the France v Belgium semi-final and is rated as one of Europe’s greatest stadiums.
Sergei Fursenko, the man upstairs who had led Zenit to UEFA Cup glory back in 2008, rejoined the club as President in May 2017 and began restructuring the club behind the scenes with a view to making the club a European giant.
Lucescu made way at the end of the season and was replaced with much fanfare by Italian legend Roberto Mancini. Five Argentinian international players joined the former Man City and Inter Milan boss at Stadium St. Petersburg and the season started brightly with the team leading the Russian Football Premier League for much of the early running. However the winter break ended that early buzz and the team fell away after a number of poor results and unexpected draws. We saw Zenit once again finish third, outside of the Champions League places and trophyless.
Roberto Mancini left at the end of the season to take over the Italian national team and the search for a new manager began. Sergei Fursenko appointed former Zenit midfield legend Sergei Semak to the hot seat and he was soon followed by Javiar Ribalta from Manchester United as the club’s Chief Scout. In October 2018 Zenit were ranked in the top 20 of the world’s most watched football teams thanks to the huge number of supporters attending the new arena and going into the 2018/19 season things look bright for Russia’s most popular club.