ROME Zdenek Zeman will make his return to management by taking over as Cagliari coach, new owner Tommaso Giulini has announced as he prepares a new era for the troubled Serie A club.
Giulini, a majority shareholder and former chief executive of Sardinian chemical company Fluorsid, became the owner when previous president Massimo Cellino, who is now in charge of Leeds United, agreed to sell him the club after a proposed deal with an American investment fund collapsed.
Zeman had been rumoured to be the new Cagliari boss for days and has a one-year deal with the Sardinian club after snubbing the advances of Serie B side Bologna.
"Zeman was our top candidate right from the beginning. His type of football has always fascinated me and I'm sure that he will make his mark on Cagliari," Giulini said in an interview with the Gazzetta Dello Sport.
"Recently I've heard stories that he preferred other clubs to ours, but I'm convinced that we appealed to him from the start."
The 67-year-old Czech was out of work since he was fired by AS Roma last February following a disastrous nine months in charge that saw the club lose nine times in 23 games, leaving them languishing in mid-table.
He is known for a flamboyant, all-out attack style of football that captivates supporters but can leave his teams exposed in defence.
The sale of Cagliari to Fluorsid, which was founded by Giulini's father in 1969, was completed on Thursday, with Italian media reporting the deal to be worth around 45 million euro (35.94 million pounds).
"I bought this club because my family feel close links to the island. We have been given a lot here and we want to pay our debt by giving something positive back," said Giulini.
Cagliari have been caught in stadium limbo over the last three years, with Cellino getting into a battle with local authorities leaving the club to play in front of only 5,000 fans at the dilapidated municipal Sant'Elia ground.
Former Inter Milan director Giulini has promised fans that the stadium problems that have dogged the club and at one point led to them playing in Trieste, some 1,000 kilometres away on the mainland and near the border with Slovenia, will soon be resolved.
"I've begun working on the stadium issue. Work on the Sant'Elia will begin on Wednesday," he added.
"By the start of the new season it will have 12,000 places, and by December the stadium will be able to host 16,000 people.
"By the end of the year we aim to have a definitive project. The idea is to have a 30,000-capacity stadium as part of a broader project, which will include a smaller basketball stadium."
Zeman has some work to do on the pitch. Cagliari finished 15th in Serie A last season and flirted with relegation before eventually finishing seven points clear of the drop zone.
"You'll see that everyone will have to face up to our ambitions," said Giulini. "Cagliari won't be a second choice club for anyone."
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)