ST. PETERSBURG, Mar. 11 (Xinhua) -- Russian football club Zenit St. Petersburg on Tuesday confirmed the mid-season resignation of Italian manager Luciano Spalletti after a string of poor results and off-field controversies.
The 55-year-old Spalletti, who took over the reins at Zenit in December 2009, won two Russian Premier League titles as well as the Russian Cup and Russian Supercup, and was twice voted Russian Manager of the Year. In the current season, Spalletti also led Zenit to the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions League for the first time.
However, after a strong start to the 2013-14 season, Zenit's form has ebbed in recent weeks, culminating in a 0-0 home draw with 14-placed Tom' Tomsk in Round 20 of the Russian Premier League on Sunday which saw the club lose the league lead to Lokomotiv Moscow.
New Zenit interim manager Sergey Semak, the 38-year-old former Russian captain and Spalletti's own choice to succeed him in the manager's post, will face a series of tough challenges in the coming weeks with a Round 21 league clash against traditional rivals CSKA Moscow on Saturday and the return leg of the club's round of 16 Champions League tie with 2013 finalists Borussia Dortmund on March 25. Zenit must win by at least three goals to keep their Champions League hopes alive.
Semak is expected to face the press for the first time as manager following Zenit's open training run on Thursday.