Romania’s biggest football club? Of course, it’s St…op!

December 8, 2014 Leave a comment

Strange headline for a strange situation, which was a perfect fit though for Liga 1, the championship with the biggest percentage of club owners in trouble with the law. The league where public money is used in competition with private money, but both types enter the circuit of the sport “where you cannot make a profit” with this very purpose. But that is another, longer story. :)

Back to the one behind the headline: on Sunday evening, Romanian multiple (running and most likley future) champions had to take drastic measures, following a lost lawsuit. The name, the biggest name in Romanian club football, the European Cup winners from 1986, Hagi’s former and beloved team, cannot be used anymore for now without the approval of the former owner of Steaua Bucharest. The name was erased from the scoreboard of the stadium that hosted the 1-0 victory against CSMS Iasi. A square represented the current league leaders who are on another solitary run towards the title, while the name and the logo were erased from the players’ shirts, the dugout and any other visible place it stood before a Romanian court reached a shocking, but fair decision.

On the scoreboard "Hosts" was written instead of Steaua. For a photo gallery go to www.prosport.ro.

On the scoreboard “Hosts” was written instead of Steaua. For a photo gallery go to http://www.prosport.ro.

Gigi Becali might have took over the famous club and its huge fan pool through some dodgy maneuvers, but after more than a decade of use the Ministery of Defence finally managed to throw back a punch. It might not be a knock-out, but it surely is a knock-down. It might have angered some fans, but there’s a sense of justice behind it. Steaua’s past, glorious, but often built through unsporting measures under the communist regime, came back to haunt the club now ran from behind bars by its owner, Becali, and sporting director, Stoica, both unable to fuel the type of massive scandal that was expected by such a bold call. They and those within the club are now in an extremely delicate situation. If they’ve took this measure in Liga 1 to avoid further punishment, they are now in a race against the clock to find a solution. No later than Thursday evening, Dynamo Kyiv is coming to Bucharest in the Europa League and I’m sure they (and UEFA) would surely like to know the name of the team they’re playing against…

UPDATE: After a meeting that took place on Monday afternoon, Becali’s club has been granted the right to use the name and the logo for the last two official matches of 2014. Negotiations are expected to take place at the start of next year, with the Ministry of Defense hoping to make Gigi Becali pay an important sum to continue to use the brand.

Piturca left Romania with 7 points, but with no idea what do to next

October 26, 2014 Leave a comment

The official announcement came on the 16th of October. Piturca was signing for Al-Ittihad after all. It was not only in the air, but also in the papers for more than three weeks, yet the move managed to surprise the young chief of the Romanian Football Federation (FRF), Razvan Burleanu.

“Right now we are talking about rumors, so we should all stick together and focus on the double against Hungary and Finland. Victor Piturca told me that he is not leaving. He is not leaving for now, but didn’t say for how long is he planning to stay either”, said Burleanu on the 29th of September. In spite of this statement, the 30 years old who didn’t think that a Plan B was needed until Plan A was on a plane to Jeddah.

He might have had a list of coaches put together by his advisors right away, but he really started to cross names off it once Piturca left. A huge strategic mistake, as we all found out in the 10 days that went by, as Burleanu’s dream of getting Mircea Lucescu back in charge of the national team turned into a nightmare for the fans who need to accept that there’s one solution left. And that’s Anghel Iordanescu, who hasn’t coached a single team in almost 10 years, and was more keen on politics than football, who will be getting help from a trio of young coaches: Viorel Moldovan, Daniel Isaila and Ionut Badea.

Apart Moldovan, I don’t really know what the other two can bring to the national team. But, in the end, I feel exactly the same about Iordanescu, who’s more familiar with the names of relegious characters than those of Romanian players… The list of Romanian options was long enough, going from Olaroiu to Petrescu, Boloni or Contra, there was always the alternative of bringing in a foreign coach, and those saying that FRF lacked the money to attract such names, I’d say that the issue should have been on FRF’s agenda when Piturca was promised that he would be allowed to leave without having to pay a hefty compensation, if he got 4 points from Romania’s previous two group games.

Burleanu (left) and Iordanescu (right) play a game with high stakes. (photo by Mediafax)

Burleanu (left) and Iordanescu (right) play a game with high stakes. (photo by Mediafax)

With less than 3 weeks before a very tough game, we still await the confirmation of the new structure of Romania’s coaching staff. It should finally arrive on Monday, yet the damage is there to be done. Iordanescu represents a temporary solution. Better said: Iordanescu represents Burleanu’s inability to think ahead and get things done under pressure. And the longer it will take him to understand that he needs a man and a project, the bigger the chances to throw away the positive start of this qualifying campaign.

While Mircea Sandu, the former boss of the FRF, always liked to answer critics by asking to be “blamed” for the results of Hagi’s generation, we might soon find out that he was replaced by a guy who could really be responsible for missing out of a final tournament that is in our reach…

Ogararu will lose games as a coach, but should never lose our respect

September 18, 2014 1 comment

u clujMihai Nesu‘s everyday life is a physical struggle after the horrific accident suffered years ago, but his intelligence and passion for football are still in one place. So, it’s not pity what got him the job as a video analyst for Universitatea Cluj from the new coach in charge, George Ogararu. It’s just something you can’t find these days (actually, for decades) at his former club, Steaua Bucharest: true friendship and respect from an open-minded person in charge.
To both of them I sincerely wish the best of luck. And let’s just secretly keep our fingers crossed for Universitatea Cluj, no matter the team we support. There’s a spirit within that club strong enough not to be perverted by the promise of quick success brought to town in recent years by CFR, a spirit that sets this club apart and gestures like Ogararu’s just fit right in…

A look at Hagi’s struggles with the best Romanian football academy

September 15, 2014 1 comment

Viitorul started its third consecutive season in the top flight, which is quite a feature considering the impressive number of youngsters promoted, but also the difficulties to survive in a league full of clubs ready to throw everything into a fight that usually has one true victim: the future of Romanian football.
Hagi entered this fight with his best kids and intentions, but soon realized all his work and huge investment – done mostly by himself – can go to waste, so Viitorul has now linked to its name some shocking, yet very useful results obtained at the very end of the previous two Liga 1 campaigns.
It was not pretty to watch and it surely didn’t send the right signals not only within the club, but also outside of it. But what father wouldn’t try everything to protect his children?

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The real problem, in my opinion, is not that Hagi felt the need to intervene, as he does now, by taking an active role in the technical staff of his own club, is that he failed to address some important issues, which regard both the Academy’s activity and the senior team’s results.

1. No real solution for players who turn 19.
The youth competitions – which Hagi’s Academy dominate for years – involve only players up to 19 years old. Once the youngsters reach this critical age in their development, there’s no Under 21 or Reserve League games waiting for them. Hagi probably hoped to address that when he supported Gheorghe Popescu’s candidacy, but the former Barcelona captain ended the race in jail, not in the Romanian Football Federation’s best office.
There was no plan B. There are no partner-clubs in the second division, there are no friendly relations with other Liga 1 clubs, where most of his 19 years old, champions at youth level, could have a chance to take the normal step towards senior football. Viitorul is the only senior club to aspire to and it simply cannot look after and promote every generation of new players that comes out of the academy each year.

2. Too much confidence in the Academy’s potential to promote itself.
Initially, Hagi didn’t want a club in the tip flight, but was forced to push for promotion, as he felt that the second division is not a glamorous shopping avenue for interesting clubs, not even Romanian 1st division teams. He had to stop the investment in the training facilities near Constanta to be able to finance the club, but I am not sure that things are that much better. A look at some of the top sales done so far? Chitu to Valenciennes (failed to adjust, now returned to Romania), Balasa to Roma (loaned in Serie B), Iancu to Steaua (failed to impress)… Not very good advertising, is it?

3. Poor marketing and reluctance to work with agents.
Probably Hagi relies on his name, on the impressive number of youth internationals (the U21 just lost 0-8 to Germany…) and surely lacks in his club structure the people who can attract and keep alive the little interest of foreign clubs. On the other hand, he also ignores the good (which often comes with some bad, but not always!) that can be done by agents who know how to sell players.
I’ll offer one example I’ve been watching from a distance: Adrian Stefanescu, a Romanian agent who has very good links with top UK based clubs, including Manchester City, but who does some really good work in getting very young Romanian players in cont(r)act and with Premier League and Championship clubs. Atletico Arad, who does some good work at youth level, are lucky and also clever to have him as partner…

4. Poor selection of first team coaches
Viitorul promoted under the guidance of Catalin Anghel, an unknown, young coach, who has left the club after the first year in the top flight. His choice looked strange in the first place and it set a pattern Hagi hasn’t abandoned. Same goes for Bogdan Vintila, former keeper and colleague of the owner, who was followed and now follows after Bogdan Stelea, whose brief spell in charge means that Hagi didn’t really had to appoint himself in a technical role a couple of weeks ago. My feeling is that he was already making use of those prerogatives…
Anyway, having young, unexperienced and not so strict coaches in charge of a young and unexperienced team might not be the best idea, but until proven wrong, it seems like the only and the best idea.

5. Belief in wasted talents
Viitorul works every day with something than can be seen, felt in a player, but that cannot always be transformed into quality. It’s a process that involved hundreds of players since the academy opened its doors, thousands of hours spent on the pitch, millions of Euros invested and a bunch of subjective factors that can influence the outcome and make the work at youth level such a massive task which most of Romanian clubs simply refuse to undertake anymore.
Why Viitorul, who produces talent in quantities way over the senior team’s needs, decides every once in a while to sign players who proved at every level that they couldn’t turn themselves into quality professional players is simply beyond me. But, normally, it’s strictly linked with Hagi who – proved it also as a coach – really believes in his instincts (I cannot call stubborn a man I can’t stop admiring). Signing players like Alibec and Daminuta, whose real talent is to throw away the fantastic opportunities to make a huge career in football, made no sense to me. If Daminuta came on a free and, in theory, might allow Viitorul to make some money, Alibec was signed on loan from Inter, offered the place deserved by one of Viitorul’s kids, and made a mess of it once again. Now he’s warming the bench of Astra Giurgiu, after his probably last loan spell in Serie A, with Bologna.
Trying to find a logic in these signings? Maybe Hagi wanted to show his Academy graduates how they must not look like in 2-3 years time. Full of tattoos and full of themselves, with some money in the bank, a flashy car & tarty girl at their disposal. But is that such a bad profile for a 17-18 years olds whose family education stopped at 13-14, when they left home to join the Academy and spent his teenage years among boys, going from training to school and back?
They might have all dreamt at one point to become the new Hagi, but haven’t we all? :)

Rule number 1 in Romanian football: you don’t mess with the owner!

September 12, 2014 Leave a comment

Romania’s defense held out in Athens against Greece, with Gabriel Tamas at right back, a desperate, yet effective solution. Normally, we should have seen there Alexandru Matel, the 24 years old who featured in both play-off games against Greece last November, when Romania missed out on a place at the World Cup, who went on to finish another solid season with Astra Giurgiu, winning the Romanian Cup and finishing the league in second place.

Don’t look him up in Astra’s team that managed to take out Slovan Liberec and OL on its way to the Europa League group stage! You won’t find him in the starting line-ups, not even on the bench. You can find him in exile though, training on his own, twice a day, on the pitch of Astra’s abandoned stadium from Ploiesti. He’ll be there until next summer, waiting for the last year of his contract to run out, watching international games go by at a perfect age to play and impress.

matelHe’s 24, fully fit, but after just over 100 games for Astra, still naive enough to think that Ioan Niculae, a rich guy who likes to own business and people, would have said: “well, it’s no problem if you don’t want to renew your deal, my team can still do with the best Romanian right back for another year!”. Well, the problem with most of the wealthy guys is that they rarely regard somebody else indispensable, valuable or at least worthy of respect. Other than themselves, that is…

Well, enough bad things about the owner. With all his faults, according to his version of events, he did meet the exact terms requested by Matel’s agent for a contract extension this summer. A scenario Matel didn’t feel the need to deny, which might just make it real. He prefers to pose as the victim, but it would have been a more convincing picture if he didn’t negotiate for a new deal in the first place. And Niculae, as any other rich guy out there, has the cash to surprise you. Usually, in a positive way. At times, in ways you and your agent might dislike. Because in a story that affects not only Matel, but more people and teams, there’s more than just one bad guy involved this time around…

Ce s-a văzut din tribună, la Grecia – România

September 8, 2014 Leave a comment

Că Pițurcă încă mai poată se ne surprindă, deși folosește mereu aceiași jucători. Eu n-am reușit să intuiesc cum se vor așeza cei trei mijlocași ofensivi din spatele lui Marica, de exemplu. Torje, în schimb, n-a reușit să priceapă ce naiba caută pe bancă, acum când are echipă de club care-l joacă, așa cum probabil nu înțelegea cum e titular, deși juca meci de meci pe băncile de rezerve ale unor echipe care-l împrumutau de la Udinese mai mult de nevoie, decât de voie.

photoCă un Tamaș mahmur joacă mai bine decât un Mitroglou trimis pachet înapoi la Pireu, la dezalcoolizare.

Că Bogdan Stancu a început să chelească.

Că între o țață isterică din Orodel și un selecționer agitat din Orodel sunt multe asemănări comportamentale. Explicabile totuși, no?

Că-n tribună doar Iordănescu și Vochin ce mai discută ce se petrece pe teren, folosind mâinile din dotare. Iordănescu îl are în dreapta pe Burleanu, Vochin pe un băiat proaspăt lipit de FRF, căruia i-l arăta la protocol pe Karagounis, iar ăla, săracul, credea că fostul (?) ziarist îl cunoaște inclusiv pe barman.

Că, dacă tot am deschis subiectul, în anturajul naționalei sunt acum niște neni pe care repriza a doua îi prinde în ofsaid, la protocol. Niște neni care strigau “fără fault!”, la dueluri unu la unu petrecute în careu…

Că Marica a învățat la aproape 30 de ani să stea și el pe picioare când e luat pe piept de un fundaș central. Sau că Hoban poate să joace decent la națională și execrabil uneori la Petrolul.  Sau că avem nevoie de mai mulți Pintilii (mai trebuie vreun i?) și Dragoși Grigori (sic!). Că pe Apără Tătărușanu ar putea să-l afecteze titularizarea la Fiorentina.

Că jucăm 4-2-3-1 doar în teorie, practic, ne strângem pe final 11, 10, 9, câți am mai rămas, în careu, și ne rugăm s-o dea adversarii în bară. La propriu și la figurat.

Că la fel de bine am pornit și data trecută, cu 1-0 în deplasare, pe terenul cele mai tari echipe din grupă.

Că Pițurcă a fost, este și va rămâne ultimul selecționer care a calificat România la un turneu final. D-aia, nea Piți trebuie să rămână. Sau, la fel de bine, poate să plece. No?

 

Comeback

August 23, 2014 Leave a comment

Toyed with the idea of letting this go, as the blog’s domain was about to expire, but the passion for writing is still there. So is the will to share info and thoughts on Romanian footie, which lots of you appreciated over time, so here I am. Back on the road, scouting, back on the blog, writing.
Let’s talk some football here, on Twitter (@rbaicu) and Facebook.

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