…and when the stake is the league title and the chance not to play in the Champions League, but to cash in on the money guaranteed by the presence in the group stage, you have to wonder what’s Steaua’s plan.
The club sold this winter two central defenders: the undervalued Ionut Rada (27) to Al-Nasr and the vastly experienced and team captain Sorin Ghionea (30) to FC Rostov. In their place, Steaua bought the Bulgarian Zhivko Zhelev (30), who looked solid in the two and a half seasons spent at Otelul Galati, but never played for a bigger objective than avoiding relegation. The latest news speak about the two names that should reinforce the defense and also conclude the club’s activity in the transfer market this winter: Stelios Parpas (24) and Gora Tall (24). Both agreed to Steaua’s proposals and are expected in Bucharest to sign the papers, but there are serious doubts that they could make the instant impact Steaua needs in what promises to be the hottest race ever for the title in the Romanian first division. Tall is a Senegalese defender, who played for small clubs from Portugal and Cyprus until now and was running out of contract at APOP/Kinyras in the summer, while Parpas has better credentials, with almost 100 matches played in Cyprus for Aris and AEL Limassol, but not at all the pedigree expected by fans and pundits, who expected reinforcements, not just cheap replacements…
- Rapid continues to surprise with its aggressive presence on the transfer market, given the financial status of the club. The latest ambitious target for the Bucharest side is getting back Cristian Sapunaru (25), from FC Porto. The right back, who was sold in Portugal in the summer of 2008 and collected so far 22 matches in the Liga Sagres, would take this opportunity in case he will be suspended for hitting a steward after the match against Benfica.
- The Slovakian defender Marian Cisovsky (30) has returned to full fitness after four months spent on the sidelines. Cisovsky, who had played in 27 matches and scored three goals in his first season in Romania, had suffered a knee injury in the Champions League qualifying match against VFB Stuttgart. After Milos Brezinsky (25), he’s the second important defensive player that returns from a long injury and, with the adition of Cosmin Contra, coach Ioan Ovidiu Sabau has every reason to look forward to the second half of season, in which the Viola outfit will be pushing for the title.
- Former Romanian international and Barcelona captain, Gheorghe “Gica” Popescu, intends to invest in a second football academy, in Targoviste. He already has one located just outside Craiova, spread over 50.000 square meters, which produced a number of valuable players. The first good “products” were the established Ovidiu Burca (Energie Cottbus), Ionut Rada (ex Rapid and Steaua Bucharest), Mihai Dina (Universitatea Craiova, but now there’s a new generation that includes the promising Sebastian Mladen, Alexandru Pena, Alin Petrea and Adrian Stoian (all transferred to AS Roma), Sabrin Sburlea (FC Brasov), Liviu Ganea (Dinamo), Lucian Filip (Steaua).
Rapid’s success in finalizing the Gauracs deal could open the road for the club’s surpise from the first half of season, Alexandru Ionita (20), to FC Koln. The interest for the talented centre forward became public yesterday, when the Bucharest side received an offer of 1.000.000, 1.500.000, 2.000.000 EUR and, at that time, in spite of the serious financial struggle of the club, the boss George Copos still claimed that the player wasn’t for sale.
Today, there’s a different story, as the Bundesliga outfit demanded for an answer asap, with FIFA agent Traian Gherghisan asking for a serious wage rise for the striker, in case of a negative response. And, having in Gauracs (21) a rather similar player (age, style of play, potential), it would be insane to turn down an offer that might not come along again…
The press announces today that FC Koln’s offer was raised to 2,5 mil. EUR and that the 1.Bundesliga club finally convinced Rapid’s owner to accept the deal by allowing the player to stay at the Bucharest side until the end of the season.
- Edgars Gauracs (21) has finally signed a contract with Rapid Bucharest and he joins the club on loan from Ventspils until the end of the season. “The Gauracs deal” had been announced for more than two weeks now and even Rapid’s officials began to have some doubts regarding his arrival in time for the club’s training camp from Turkey. The club’s owner, George Copos, confidently announced now that Gauracs has a bright future ahead of him at his new club, where he’ll stay for 4 more years if Rapid will activate its option for a permanent deal in the summer.
- Assisted by their brother & agent Arthur Karamyan, Artavazd and Arman, the Karamyan twins recently released by FC Timisoara reached an agreement with Steaua Bucharest. They will get 100.000 EUR upfront and another 100.000 EUR in the summer, in case Steaua wins the league, a trick that should save appearances, as the Armenians’ wages won’t go over the 120.000 EUR salary cap imposed by Becali at the Bucharest side.
- Claudinei Alexandre Aparecido Nei (29) looks set to join newly promoted Unirea Alba Iulia, on a loan deal, until the end of the season. The Brazilian forward never looked good enough for CFR or any other team fighting for the title and, in case the deal will be finalized, he’ll meet in Alba Iulia three former colleagues from Cluj, Rade Veljovic (24, striker), Andres Felipe de Souza Galiassi (29, central defender), Vitinha (23, left back), who are also on loan, until the summer. Nei played a lot in the first half of the seasons, but scored only two goals in fourteen appearances in the league.
- Apparently George Copos, the owner of Rapid Bucharest, refused a tempting offer for the promising centre forward Alexandru Ionita (20). Promoted from the youth squad at the beginning of the season, Ionita scored 6 goals in the league already and also collected three call-ups to the U21 national team. The offer was higher than 1 mil. EUR and arrived at the club through FIFA agent Traian Gherghisan. According to the press, Ionita earns only 2.000 EUR / month, while the decision of Copos is rather strange, given his recent financial struggles and the desire to sell the club.
- With Rui Duarte (29) still just a transfer target and while waiting for Polish international Pawel Golanski to extend the contract that is running out in the summer, Steaua is also looking at the possibility to get back George Ogararu (29), from Ajax Amsterdam. Already transfer listed by the Dutch club, Ogararu refused a move to Roda and says that he won’t have a problem in convincing the club to release him on a free transfer, as he’s currently still getting 700.000 EUR / season.
- Cosmin Contra (34) confirmed the deal with FC Timisoara. The veteran full back has found an agreement with Getafe’s president and will be allowed to move to Timisoara as a free player. Contra will sign until the summer and is hoping to help the club win the league. Born in Timisoara, Contra has only played for half of season for the Viola outfit, collecting 14 appearances, back in 2005.
- Universitatea Craiova made a bold move and completed the buy of star forward Florin Costea (24), from CSM Ramnicu Valcea. Although Costea (who’s also regarded as a solution for the national team – and might find even more space, in case Mutu won’t find a miraculous solution and avoid suspension) plays for Craiova since 2006, 25% of his transfer rights were still belonging to the second division club. And Craiova decided to pay 500.000 EUR in exchange, a lot of money, even though Costea was reportedly a target for big clubs from abroad, ready to meet an asking price of 4-5 mil. EUR! Knowing the player and that 75% of the rumors published this winter were rubbish, my bet is that he won’t leave Craiova for a higher price than 1.5 mil. EUR, if he’ll ever make a move abroad at all!
- Unirea Alba Iulia signed Argentinian midfielder Enzo Bruno (22). The former Independiente player came as a free agent and signed a contract until the end of the season.
- The Argentinian young striker Danilo Ezequiel Carando (20) agreed to sign a contract with Astra Ploiesti until June 2012. The forward joins a list of players bought by Astra from South America this winter: Deigo Silva (22, striker, from River Plate, in Uruguay), Maximilian Arias (21, midfielder, from Fenix, in Uruguay), Gonzalo Salgueiro (23, goalkeeper, born in Uruguay, comes from Kalamata, Greece), Alejandro Kruchowski (27, full back, born in Argentina) and Marcelo Fabian Mendez Russo (28, central defender, from Montevideo Wanderers, in Uruguay). All the players have been recommended and assisted by Diego Solivaret.