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Zenit St. Petersburg hire new head coach, not Sarri

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Branislav Ivanovic’s new head coach is former Russia superstar and Zenit assistant Sergey Semak

Zenit St. Petersburg, the only other team confirmed to have offered a new contract to Maurizio Sarri, completed the signing of a new head coach on Tuesday.

Is it Sarri? No it definitely is not.

Their new man in charge may have the same first letter in his last name as the former Napoli boss, but that’s where the similarities stop. The new Zenit head coach, replacing now Azzurri boss Roberto Mancini, is 42-year-old Sergey Semak, former CSKA Moscow and Russia superstar.

The “welcome back to Saint Petersburg” part refers to Semak finishing his professional playing career in the light blue of Zenit and then joining their backroom staff for the following few years, rising all the way to assistant and even caretaker manager for a spell. He spent last season as the actual manager at FC Ufa, leading them to 6th in the Russian Premier League and a spot in the Europa League qualifying rounds. It was the best finish in Ufa’s short, less than a decade-old history.

Obviously, the part that is more pertinent as far as we’re concerned is that with Zenit off the radar, Sarri’s options have basically narrowed to just Chelsea. This doesn’t necessarily move any negotiations with Napoli further along for the Blues, but it does confirm the idea that someday soon, this deal might actually happen.