Football: Villas-Boas aims to be Andre the Great in St Petersburg

MOSCOW (AFP) - 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 sacking his predecessor Luciano Spalletti for failing to win more big silverware.

Villas-Boas said his immediate aim for the rest of the season was to win the remaining nine matches in the Russian League and take the Russian title in a tight race with a resurgent Lokomotiv Moscow.

"The first aim is victory in the championship," said Villas-Boas, who will reportedly receive at least 8.5 million euros (S$15 million) a season under his two-year contract.

The Saint Petersburg's team owners, Russian state gas giant Gazprom, want him to make a real impact in the Champions League next season after the side went out of this season's competition in a 5-4 aggregate defeat by Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday.

"I want to do the same for your team as Peter the Great did for Saint Petersburg," Villas-Boas told reporters in his first news conference, referring to the Russian Tsar who founded the former imperial capital in 1703.

"It is a fantastic city," said the multi-lingual coach, adding he would be learning Russian.

Villas-Boas, as in his English management days, dressed impeccably in a designer suit and tie, spoke in Portuguese during the press conference but began with a cheery "Dobry Den" (Good Day) in Russian.

The Jose Mourinho protege, who has been out of work since being sacked by Spurs last year, said he barely hesitated when he first received the Zenit offer last week.

"I saw the big ambitions of the leadership in the shape of Gazprom,"

Villas-Boas said in the news conference broadcast on Zenit's TV channel. "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," he added.

He said he was impressed with the "passion" of the team in the away leg on Wednesday of the tie against Borussia which Zenit won 2-1.

Gazprom has showed its ambition with the purchase of Brazilian star Hulk and Belgium's Axel Witsel for a reported 100 million euros - the biggest transfer buys in Russian football history - but they have yet to turn the team into world beaters.

With Portuguese players, including defender Luis Neto and midfielder Miguel Danny also in the Zenit side as well as Hulk, Gazprom will be hoping the Portuguese connection will be a huge plus.

Villas-Boas managed Hulk at Porto while Witsel arrived from their great Lisbon rivals Benfica.

The manager himself is on the road to redemption after his reputation slumped following his astonishing 2010-2011 season at Porto where he won the league, Portuguese Cup and the Uefa Europa League.

His stints at Chelsea and Tottenham ended in disappointment and the sack after owners lost patience with a lack of success. But Zenit players expressed excitement at the new arrival.

"The club have chosen a new way ahead with Villas-Boas, who will help us to reach new heights and win new titles," said Luis Neto.

"Naturally I'm happy to work with a Portuguese coach but most of all I'm happy with the chance to work with one of Europe's best managers. I hope that the luck will accompany us from now on."

Belgian international back Nicolas Lombaerts also said he believed that Zenit would earn a success under new manager.

"We need to find our normal self," he said. "Villas-Boas is a strong and experienced coach, who has won the Europa League. I hope that we will achieve new success.