1990

Zenit officially stopped being supported by LOMO on August 6th, 1990. Zenit Football Club was established as an independent company by decree of the Executive Committee of the Leningrad Soviet. Vladislav Gusev, a famous sports journalist, was elected as the first president of the team.

That said, these changes didn’t help the team’s situation. Due to chronic financial and organizational problems, the team performed worse and worse, and was an outsider in the First League. At the end of the 1991 season Zenit found itself in the relegation zone, and was demoted to the second league. Only thanks to the collapse of the Soviet Union was Zenit given its place back in the top league, which was organized into the Russian Premier League.

That said, the blue-white-light blues were still eventually relegated. Zenit played in Russia’s second league for three years in a row. The club was completely reorganized over these years, and was registered as a closed joint-stock company. Vitaly Mutko became the new club president. Mutko was the vice mayor of St. Petersburg at the time. The key change in the team’s fate came with the return of Pavel Sadyrin to the coaching helm. Sadyrin returned Zenit to the top league, but was soon replaced by Anatoly Byshovets.

The new coach gave his players new creativity, while foreign players took on leadership positions within the Zenit squad for the first time ever. Players from Ukraine, Armenia, Moldavia and Belarus all played a role. Football based on solid defense and discipline isn’t so fun to watch, but it was very effective for Zenit. It was this tactical style combined with a certain freedom which Anatoly Viktorovich Davydov brought to the team when he became coach, thereby leading Zenit to the Russian Cup title on May 26, 1999. The hero of the final was Alexander Panov, who scored twice. Roman Maksimyuk also scored in Zenit’s 3:1 victory. The players in the winning team were Roman Berezovsky, Alexander Babiy, Andrey Kondrashov, Sarkis Ovspeyan, Alexey Igonin, Yury Vernidub, (team captain), Konstantin Lepyokhin, Alexander Gorhskov, Gennady Popovich, Roman Maksimyuk, Alexander Panov, Igor Zazulin, and Andrey Kobelev.