Russian Premier League leaders Zenit Saint Petersburg won 2-1 against Italian Serie A side Torino in the Europa League last-16 on Thursday night which caps a fantastic season so far for the Sky Blues. Manager Andres Villas-Boas rightly takes the plaudits for turning the club’s fortunes around after years of underachieving.
The Portuguese coach had a rough time in the Premier League, getting sacked from both Chelsea and Tottenham in a short space of time. He initially arrived to England off the back of winning the quadruple with Porto, so he was then-regarded as one of the best young managers in the game. But things didn’t quite go to plan with the two setbacks in London, and his next move was crucial to resurrect his career.
Villas-Boas opted to join Zenit, a Russian club with significant financial backing, sky-high expectations from the supporters, and off the back of title-less seasons. But the decision has so far gone to plan, with Zenit top of the league mid-way through the campaign. Their Europa League campaign is going perfectly following their first leg win in the last-16, and Villas-Boas is on the way to restoring his reputation.
He took a risk, as the Russian outfit are expected to win titles in their domestic league, but had failed in the last couple of seasons. There’s also the issue getting the best form from the likes of Hulk, which previous managers have struggled to do. Considering the Brazilian winger is the second top goalscorer in the league so far, Villas-Boas has worked his magic.
He will have eyes on returning to a big European side too, so Zenit supporters shouldn’t be expecting a long stay by the young coach. There’s every chance he would consider a Premier League return too, but he still has a job to do in Russia. Zenit are currently seven points clear of second-placed CSKA Moscow in the title race, but it’s far form over.
There’s plenty more games to go and points to amass, plus the distraction of their European commitments, which can often stifle league form, so Villas-Boas will have a tough task to keep his side motivated and consistent. If he can deliver a first league title to the supporters in three years, he will be coveted by a lot of clubs. The Russian outfit do boast a strong squad, but it’s not an easy task to improve misfiring and underperforming players to go all the way. Villas-Boas is so far proving he’s the man for such a task, while repairing his reputation on the way too.