Zenit St. Petersburg football coach Luciano Spalletti has backed ex-Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola or veteran midfielder Sergei Semak for the vacant Russia job.
The Russian Football Union Tuesday published a list of 13 coaches it considered to be candidates to replace Dick Advocaat as national coach. Advocaat announced before Russia’s failed Euro 2012 campaign that he would rejoin PSV Eindhoven immediately afterward.
Guardiola was one of the highest-profile names on the FA’s list, along with former England boss Fabio Capello, ex-Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp and former Italy coach Marcello Lippi.
But Zenit coach Spalletti, who was left off the list despite taking the club to back-to-back league titles, named Guardiola and his own midfielder Semak as ideal choices.
"From my point of view, the best trainer for Russia is Guardiola. It would be nice if Guardiola became our coach. I say ‘our’ because I feel a little bit Russian," Spalletti said.
Guardiola, 41, stepped down as Barcelona coach in June after winning 14 titles in four years at the Camp Nou.
"But if your making bets on the future, then I’d choose a coach who would do a lot of work in organising football in the country, who is devoted to his country heart and soul, and I would name Sergei Semak," Spalletti added.
He acknowledged that backing a useful player for the club "perhaps goes against my own interests." "Semak is a person of immense character, of the top level, who has a lot of ideas in his head."
Spalletti said Semak, 36, still has two seasons left in him at Zenit, after which "all the top clubs will want to see him as the coach."
Semak has 66 league appearances for Zenit since joining from Rubin Kazan in 2010, and 65 caps for Russia.