The Brazilian has been the best player from Liga I in the first part of the season and Gaz Metan’s efforts to keep away the interested clubs would have been admirable, if they would have tried to offer their star player a better deal, rather than lie about his real contract situation. The board, represented by Ioan Horoba, who previously worked for Gloria Bistrita – only the most controversial club in the country, in the past two decades -, offered the press a version nobody went to the trouble of verifying, so it has been said more than once that Eric was bought from Metropolitano and signed a new five years long deal. Of course, that wasn’t true, but the player’s agents minded their business and continued to work on finding a new club for the Brazilian, who should have returned to Metropolitano, next summer, unless no other club (except Gaz Metan) would have triggerred a release clause of 350.000 Euros – way below his current market value.
According to Eric’s agent, he’s 90% close to a move to 1. Bundesliga and, considering a detail he shared on Twitter, the three possible destinations are: Wolfsburg, Werder Bremen and Hannover 96, a club I used to work for, which I believe to have the right profile for the Brazilian and viceversa…
Last game of the year for Steaua, who could go through in case of a win or a draw and get the chance to look a lot better in the spring, when top players like Galamaz, Brandan or Bilasco will finally become available. The current campaign has been strange, with results above expectations, given the lack of options Lacatus often had to deal with. It won’t be any different tonight, three important attacking players missing through injury (Tanase) or suspension (Kapetanos, Nicolita), and, no matter how many times the coach will say that trying to preserve the initial 0-0 will be suicidal, I cannot see past a very defensive setup and a counter-attacking side.
I expect to see three defensive midfielders deployed in the central area, trying to break down attacks, with only Angelov experienced enough though to keep hold of the ball, as well as succeed in starting a counter. The Romanian press gives the very offensive Bonfim on the right side of the defense, but with Latovlevici on the opposite side having the same mentality, I think Lacatus might go for the aggressive Martinovic, who is a natural centre-back and lacks the instinct and the quality to push forward and leave the flank exposed. The very promising Gardos can be an option of the anchorman role, but playing him there would mean that Lacatus still doesn’t trust him enough to use him in the last line of defense. If he’ll start in midfield, Bicfalvi should remain on the bench.
To conclude, Steaua’s ability to defend and stay focused for 90-98 minutes will be seriously tested and vital for the team’s chances to progress, as the three forwards can only provide a threat as individuals, having pace and/or skill to take out an opponent and take their shots, but looking at their season so far, reasons to trust them are hard to find. As good as he is, Stancu has scored most of his numerous goals at home, Surdu lacks quality and will rely on pace and luck, while Szekely has decent skill, but has failed to regain his best form and match fitness since his return from a long lay-off. So, with little chances to hurt Napoli on the break, I expect Steaua to take that suicidal approach and defend in numbers, hoping (praying, in Gigi Becali’s case) to survive. It’s not the best plan, but everyone must accept that it was the only one possible…
The return of Dinu Gheorghe as club president offered Rapid the opportunity to buy the best players from his former club, who had only missed out on a place in Europe in the previous season. Further more, the new executive guy went over the transfer and wage budgets, with some free signings and expensive deals (Cassio Vargas was bought for 700.000 Euros from Portugal), trying to ensure that the coach has every position doubled and there will be a fierce competition for a place in the first eleven. It was the kind of effort that every coach and passionate fan would like to see, yet the fourth spot occupied at this point by Rapid shows that signing twelve new players in the summer cannot guarantee instant results.
Name: Marcos Antonio
Position: Central defender
Games/goals this season: 18/1
Recommended by Rapid’s former striker, Daniel Niculae, now at AS Monaco, the Brazilian centre-back was signed on a free transfer and has been a rock at the back. Impressive physical strength, focused, he’s been outstanding so far and doesn’t really look like someone who stayed away from the game a year ago, when he was busy winning the fight with cancer. With offers coming in already, from Russia and Greece, he could turn out to be an excellent deal from all points of view.
Name: Cassio Vargas Barbosa
Games/goals this season: 16/7
Before you call me crazy, let me help you take a look at the good stats from above: he scored in just 4 games, was decisive in only two of them (the brace that decided the derby against CFR Cluj and earned a point against Pandurii), never scored away from home, not to mention that most of his goals were from close range. So, it was a decent return from a striker who could easily double this tally by the end of the season, yet I feel he could have been a lot more influential, which is usually expected from an expensive buy. His total lack of efficiency away from the home ground – where he just has to wait for one of the many quality box that reach the penalty area – can be seen in the standings and it’s something he and the coach must address during this winter break.
Rapid cannot afford any important operation during the winter, when they’ll probably try to get some cash, as I don’t see the club determined to go all out for the title – a “strategy” used in recent times by a lot of clubs, which only lead to inflation on the market, absurd wages to mediocre players, all in the name of a possible chance to get all the money back after a shameful presence in the Champions League group stage. The pressure is on the board, who must: choose between the two top goalies, Bornescu and Coman; get as much money possible on players in demand, like Herea or Marcos Antonio; either cut loose the top players that will enter the last six months of their deals or give up on high earning reserve players and come up with convincing proposals.
They have been the best foreign players in 2010 and they’re either looking to move in search of a new challenge & more money or have attracted too much interest from the bigger teams in Liga I to finish the season at their current clubs.
1. Wesley Lopes da Silva
- Club: FC Vaslui
- Position: Forward
- Age: 30
- Games/goals this season: 18/6
He’s pushing for the league title with FC Vaslui, yet he wants to move away this winter. Again. Last time he did that, club owner Adrian Porumboiu applied the “star treatment”, making the Brazilian the team’s captain, in spite of an attitude he used to punish severely (Carlos Costly is probably still regretting for trying to do things “the hard way”). This time, I doubt there’s something that can be done, as the excellent attacking man (who scored six goals even if he had to play as a central midfielder, in a 4-2-3-1!) will be entering the last six months of a 300.000 Euros/season deal, but he’s wrong if he thinks that this in enough to ease his way out of Vaslui, even if clubs like Steaua and especially CFR Cluj have small chances to finish the season above Porumboiu’s team.
2. Eric de Oliveira
- Club: Gaz Metan Medias
- Position: Attacking Midfielder
- Age: 25
- Games/goals this season: 18/9
Add 7 assists to the 9 goals scored this season and you’ll get the picture: he’s been in hot form since the start of the season and cannot continue under Pustai’s command, although he’ll have a hard time finding a finer coach in Liga I and a similar group of players&friends. He has to try, though, to prove himself in a more challenging environment, as he’s got the age, the experience and the quality to make it at a higher level and he’ll move this winter, in spite of all the problems Gaz Metan have been trying to create, since they’ve realized that they could lose their star player for nothing. His contract with the Romanian club will expire in June 2011, in spite of recent reports spread through papers too lazy to check the information handed to them by Gaz Metan’s board.
3. Aluisio Chaves Ribeiro Moraes Junior
- Club: Gloria Bistrita
- Age: 23
- Position: Forward
- Games/goals this season: 15/8
He’s at the end of an excellent first year and he should move now if he wants to take advantage of the inspired decision to come to Romania, to such a small club and pressure-free environment, like Gloria Bistrita. His brother’s recent release has reduced close to zero the reasons to continue at the club, but the question is who is going to satisfy the old fox Jean Padureanu. He’ll want cash&players, plus a little help to have a safe season, out of a deal that should not go through for less than a million Euros, in spite of visible and laughable efforts from the Becali brothers to decrease the player’s market value through some repeated comments in the media. Ribeiro Moraes is one of the few complete attackers this league has seen in recent times, a skilful creator and finisher, a free kick specialist, the kind of 2 in 1 forward that could help any team that misses both a playmaker and a striker.
Adrian Porumboiu wanted to make this Vaslui’s year and went on a spending spree that should have added more quality to an already solid roster, offered to the former Real Madrid coach, Ramon Lopez Caro. A few of the signings were requested by the Spaniard and what followed went on to prove that it’s not the wisest thing to do, with Lopez Caro getting the sack after a poor start and a huge scandal. Rodolfo Bodipo was packed and sent back home immediately, David Rivas never featured again and David Campano doesn’t feel too comfortable either…
Best transfer Read more…
A more discrete presence on the market than in the past, Timisoara managed to sign three players that were going to play an important part in the first half of the season: Ovidiu Burca, on a free transfer, Helder, on loan from Nancy, and the former Inter Milan signing (back in the days when his huge potential had enough years ahead to be fulfilled), Ianis Zicu. The results were better than ever, with the team finishing the year unbeaten, even after a quite long spell under the command of an unexperienced coach like Cosmin Contra, and this strategy offered the chance to shine to players like Axente or Scutaru, talented youngsters bought a few years ago, who were used to be sent on loan or kept on the bench.
Best transfer Read more…
The league leaders have been making their usual business, once the experienced president Marius Stan decided to correct some mistakes done in the past, with the release of some poor buys made from abroad last season and the return to what he does best: spotting young players in the lower leagues. Read more…
Garat should be happy to move as far away from Dinamo as possible. He should forget the promising start of the season. The deserved praise for some promising performances and the beginning of a solid partnership with Cosmin Moti, the centre-back who may have returned from Seria A two years ago, but failed to return to form. The scoring ability discovered only after his move to Liga I. He will keep in mind though that, if you’re willing to make a career in Romania, there are a few guys out there who control everything, even if they’re not officially involved in the game anymore. One of them is former FIFA agent Ioan Becali, who once criticized the Argentinian centre-back more for the fact that he signed with Dinamo without going through him rather than for the quality of his performances. Garat replied by asking “Giovani” to keep quiet and stop talking about him and may have laughed in disbelief when he received a text message saying that he’ll never get to play for Dinamo again.
Today, the Red Dogs announce that they have released Juan Pablo Garat, considering that he failed to adjust to Liga I due to several medical problems, after 13 matches for the club and 2 goals. Of course, the decision has nothing to do with Becali’s threat. Garat did get to play two more games for Dinamo, after that episode. 15 minutes in the 11th round and 10 more minutes in the 16th round.
Last weekend, we’ve reached the halfway mark in Liga I, but, with a schedule that makes absolutely no sense to me – two more rounds will be played before the winter break – it’s time to take a quick look back at the 17 rounds gone.
The title race
With Otelul Galati ahead of everyone else, you can imagine that things didn’t really go as planned for the usual title contenders. The Bucharest clubs failed to do better than in the past couple of years and they’re quite a long way back, with Steaua, the only Romanian club still involved in an European competition, sitting in 7th place! Reigning champions CFR Cluj are even in a worse position and, with so many clubs eager to do better in the second half, it’s hard to see them fighting for more than a place in Europe.
Although both made the same call as CFR and changed the coaches that had prepared and started this season, FC Timisoara and FC Vaslui have definitely been more inspired and successful. Timisoara remained the only undefeated club in the league, while Vaslui suffered only one defeat in the last 11 rounds (against Timisoara!), winning eight times thanks to the team’s offensive quality and a bigger dose of luck than the rest of the pack.
Basically, Otelul‘s excellent run and Gaz Metan‘s fifth place repay the clubs that had a long term project, were satisfied with a slow, but steady growth in recent years and faith in their coaches, even when things weren’t looking bright, showing that it’s not all about the money spent on an over-priced Romanian market, the foreign players offered for free and the buys from abroad based on highlights presented on DVD, usually by the respective players’ agents!
The relegation battle
The reunited “mad bunch” from Sportul Studentesc failed to deliver more than a few entertaining matches and the bottom placed club wil probably go down mainly because the owner is satisfied to see good individual performances from the players he is hoping to sell. Unlike the rest of the struggling teams, Sportul’s players will never be desperate to get a result, an attitude easy to find in clubs like Victoria Branesti or FCM Targu Mures.
If Victoria keep faith in the young coach that won promotion last year, Ilie Stan, who doesn’t look at all out of his depth in Liga I!, Targu Mures and Pandurii are in good hands, after a poor start. In fact, Targu Mures could struggle to start 2011 with Ioan Ovidiu Sabau still in charge, as he’s considered one of the best choices by CFR’s board, as the champions are looking for the right guy to take over the team, during the winter break.
As expected, FC Brasov and Unirea Urziceni, who had suffered massive losses in terms of quality players, are down there, but they’ll put up a fight until the very end, even if top players like Chipciu (Brasov) or Maftei (Unirea) are likely to leave, as well.
What to expect
As you can see, we have no mid-table clubs, with CFR secretly dreaming of a spectacular come-back in the title race and Universitatea Craiova, who, right after Piturca’s appointment, dared even to speak of the title!, only three points away from the danger zone. With everyone still very much in it, it’s impossible to predict what is going to happen in 2011, but here’s what I think it’s pretty vital to change and what’s important to stay the same at the clubs fighting to win the league.
- Do: sell the players in demand! Rapa’s market price has rocketed and will only go down from there. The title isn’t a realistic goal for Otelul and a place in Europe could be achieved without one or two of the current regular starters. Plus, Marius Stan can buy a whole new team with a million Euros!
- Don’t: dare to think of the title. The other clubs have the money and means to make sure this won’t happen!
- Do: make a call regarding the coach, as Contra should either hang up his boots and focus on the new job or leave it to someone else. It’s been going well until now, but enthusiasm and good fortune don’t last forever.
- Don’t: keep on buying from Dinamo! It has become a
suspectstrange habit in recent years…
- Do: get back the injured defenders or buy new ones – it’s vital to find some balance within the team
- Don’t: keep on playing Wesley as a central midfielder and keep on using Burdujan
as a winger.
- Do: decide if you want the title or not; offer Lazar and Bozovic new deals; buy a new striker
- Don’t: act like amateurs; allow Rui Duarte or anyone else to skip training and leave the country without severe punishment; act like amateurs!
Gaz Metan Medias
- Do: offer the excellent coach Cristi Pustai a new deal; buy another striker; go for the chance to play in Europe next season
- Don’t: further unsettle Eric de Oliveira, you’re going to lose him anyway!
- Do: sell Torje, Adrian Cristea, Alexe – they’ll bring a lot of cash; get rid of Niculae, N’Doye, Scarlatache, Bordeanu, Moti – they’ll save you a lot of money and spare further embarassment; respect Danciulescu.
- Don’t: keep on using the old methods! You’re doing serious damage to this league and will continue to play in front of just a few hundred fans!
- Do: try and keep as many of the current players
- Don’t: act upon Becali’s mood and “knowledge”; lose the fans once again
- Do: sell all those that have spent too much time in Cluj and consider themselves more than just players; decide the club’s strategy before choosing the coach
- Don’t: think about the chance to win the league