Title contenders: Rapid Bucharest
Just missed on an European spot last season, in spite of Ioan Andone’s attempts to save what seemed a compromised campaign. Involved in a huge controversy, regarding the use of two players loaned from Sportul Studentesc, Dacian Varga and Tiberiu Balan, who were registered after the winter mercato period had ended, Rapid wasted a year, paying for poor management and a lack of strategy from the club’s owner, George Copos. Surprisingly, this guy, who repeatedly tried to get rid of the club, returned this summer determined to make Rapid one of the serious title contenders in Liga I. He convinced Dinu Gheorghe to come back from FC Brasov as the club’s president and this very influent character in Romanian football returned in style: 5 of Brasov’s best players came along and the young coach Marius Sumudica – considered one of the clubs living legends – has an excellent squad at his disposal and basically no excuse if he’ll finish the season outside the first two spots.
Players in: Marcos Antonio (central defender, 27, Belensenses), Sabrin Sburlea (forward, 21, FC Brasov), Mihai Roman (right midfielder, 26, FC Brasov), Rui Duarte (right back, 30, FC Brasov), Roosevelt Tavares de Melo Ezequias (left back, 30, FC Brasov), Nicolae Grigore (central defensive midfielder, 27, FC Brasov), Cassio Vargas (striker, 27, Uniao Leiria), Glauber Berti (central defender, 27, Sao Caetano), Gustavo Nacaratto Veronesi, 28, right winger).
Players out: Adrian Iencsi (central defender, 35, Concordia Chiajna), Diego Ciz (left back, 29, Olimpia Asuncion – loan expired), Darjian Matic (central defensive midfielder, 27, released), Ilie Iordache (forward, 25, AEK Athens – loan expired), Alexandru Ionita (striker, 21, FC Koln), Edgars Gauracs (striker, 22, FK Ventspils – loan expired), Cristian Sapunaru (right back, 26, FC Porto – loan expired), Helder da Silva Fereira (right wing back, 22, Nancy – loan expired), Dacian Varga (left winger, 26, Sportul Studentesc – loan expired), Tiberiu Balan (attacking midfielder, 29, Sportul Studentesc – loan expired).
Intense activity on the market, with impressive results, indeed. Rapid lost a number of players, but only a couple were indeed valuable for the team, and decided to cashvin on the promising Ionita after his first full season for the seniors. On the other hand, the buys were spot on: Rui Duarte will make up for Sapunaru’s departure, Ezequias will provide competition for Bozovic, who becomes also availabe for a more advanced role on the left side, while Cassio and Sburlea should do better in terms of efficiency than Ionita. Roman’s addition – a national team player these days – is a coup, but the two Brazilian centre-backs will need to confirm the board’s inspiration and Sumudica’s ability to recondition two players of some quality, but who come from very long breaks. To conclude, Rapid has now quality on each position, competition for a place in the first eleven and a group of players hungry for trophies. Excellent job from the staff!
- Coach: Marius Sumudica (new)
- Preferred system: 4-2-3-1
- Ideal first eleven: Bornescu – Rui Duarte, Glauber, Constantin, Bozovic – Grigore, Lazar – Roman, Spadacio, Cesinha – Cassio Vargas
- Reliable subs: Ezequias (left back), Marcos Antonio (central defender), Herea (attacking midfielder), Grigorie (attacking midfielder), Sburlea (striker).
- Key player: Costin Lazar. The three offensive players, Roman, Spadacio and Cesinha, are match winners, in my opinion, but what would they do if the team’s captain, one of the most gifted and underrated central midfielders in Romanian football, misses from the pitch? Technically gifted, composed and comfortable on the ball, having excellent vision and the ability to link up play effectively, he’s the man that keeps Rapid’s game flowing. A fight with Sumudica in pre-season was a signal that he’s a bit frustrated at the lack of offers from abroad, but it’s all in the past now, as he realized that this team has what it takes to win something this year.
- Underrated player: None. At this point, there are around 20 players entitled for a place in the first eleven and, with so many additions, it’s fair to wait a couple of months and see everyone at work.
- Liability: Constantin’s partner in central defense. Both Glauber and Marcos Antonio need time to regain match fitness, after lengthy spells on the sidelines, and will be prone to mistakes at least in the first few rounds of the season.
What to expect:
There is a lot of enthusiasm in Giulesti, where there’s a passionate crowd and the atmosphere at Rapid’s home games is impressive even when the team plays badly, so we can expect a good start from Rapid. But problems do appear as the season progresses and we can expect them in a team that will leave on the bench or in the stands good players every round, in a team that has a habit of alternating wonderful performances against the top clubs with poor results against the smaller teams. It will all depend on Sumudica’s ability to keep things balanced and under control, but he’s rather an impulsive, choleric character and quite unexperienced as a Liga I coach.