Spalletti prepares to take over as new Roma coach

After more than six years away from Serie A, Luciano Spalletti is looking forward to coaching in his home league again. (Dmitry Lovetsky/AP)

ROME — After more than six years away from Serie A, Luciano Spalletti is looking forward to coaching in his home league again with Roma.

Spalletti was welcomed by about 50 fans at the city’s main airport Thursday, after which Roma confirmed that he was hired to take over from fired Rudi Garcia

Spalletti spent five years with Zenit St. Petersburg after first coaching Roma from 2005-09.

"I’m excited because I know what the merits of this city, this club and this team are," Spalletti said. "It’s exciting to work with such worthy people."

Spalletti flew to Miami to work out contract details with Roma's American president, Jim Pallotta, and he returned to Italy with the club's director general, Mauro Baldissoni.

"I'm happy to be back in this league," Spalletti said.

Roma fired Garcia on Wednesday after only one win in its last 10 matches in all competitions.

At Zenit, Spalletti won two Russian league titles plus a Russian Cup and Super Cup.

"We are very excited to welcome Luciano Spalletti back to Roma," Pallotta said. "He is a proven winner with a strong track record of success. We are looking forward to working together to take Roma to where we believe it should be."

After beginning the season as an expected title contender, Roma is down to fifth place in the Italian league, seven points behind leader Napoli.

"We have so much to play for this season, both in Italy and Europe," Roma CEO Italo Zanzi said. "Luciano Spalletti's arrival only adds to the confidence we have in our players and team."

While Roma did not release financial details, local media reported that Spalletti signed an 18-month contract at 3 million euros ($3.2 million) per season.

The 56-year-old Spalletti won two Italian Cups and an Italian Super Cup in his first stay at Roma. He guided the Giallorossi to three straight runner-up finishes in Serie A. Then, after a sixth-place finish in 2008-09, he resigned after Roma lost the opening two matches the following season.

Roma's troubles this season began following a derby win over Lazio in November, and the squad never really recovered from the 6-1 thrashing at Barcelona in the Champions League later that month.

Still, Roma managed to advance from the group stage of the Champions League following an unimpressive 0-0 draw with BATE Borisov and will next face Real Madrid in the round of 16.

The rout by Barcelona highlighted Roma's weak defence. The squad has conceded 22 goals in 19 Serie A matches -- easily the worst among the top clubs.

Garcia's last match was a 1-1 draw at home with AC Milan on Saturday. Three days earlier, Roma wasted a two-goal lead in a 3-3 draw at Chievo Verona. And before the holiday break, Roma was eliminated from the Italian Cup by second-division club Spezia.

Spalletti's debut will come against last-place Hellas Verona on Sunday.