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Archive for January, 2011

Vitesse gets Gaman, but who gets the money?

January 31, 2011 2 comments

Valerica Gaman, Universitatea's runaway captain

Vitesse’s official website announces the imminent transfer of Valerica Gaman, a key player in Romania’s U21 and Universitatea Craiova’s skipper. The elegant centre-back, who is one of the most promising players in Liga I at the moment, apparently agreed terms and is expected to pass a medical test in Arnhem, with Vitesse confident to close the deal in the next few days. The rumored transfer fee is around 3 million Euros, but that won’t guarantee a quick and smooth agreement, as the player’s situation is quite confusing and the Dutch club could be in for a real and (unexpected?) adventure…

Right after Victor Piturca’s departure, Gaman and a colleague, Barboianu, left from Universitatea’s training camp in the middle of the night and refused to make any public appearance or comment since then. The surprising gesture, which normally would have caused lots of trouble for the two players (who were still under contract with Universitatea!), has some interesting background, though. Apparently, as a guarantee that Piturca will get his money back from Craiova (you can read more on the manager who played the owner’s role for a few months here), the former manager received three signed pieces of paper that represent the club’s agreement on three transfers, with the name and the details to be filled by Piturca, who should also get the respective transfer fees.

Of course, Adrian Mititelu, the owner, states that the papers cannot be used and has asked Piturca to have a talk for more than a week, saying that he has a good offer for Gaman and that the current situation can affect the deal. So, my question is: with who is Vitesse “about to close” the deal? Universitatea Craiova or Victor Piturca? I’m afraid that unless Vitesse can talk with both parties involved in this row, the Eredivisie side might pay a lot of money not just for a very promising player, but also for an unwanted set of problems…

PS In the past, Universitatea Craiova sold two other players to Holland and it proved to be the right move for both Gheorghe “Gica” Popescu (PSV Eindhoven) and Cristi Chivu (Ajax Amsterdam)!

UPDATE: As expected, the war began and it is now clear that whoever offered Gaman to Vitesse trusted Victor Piturca’s papers and plans. Universitatea Craiova just released a statement saying that Gaman is not available for a transfer, that he is under contract until June 2015 and that there is not a single document saying that he can leave the club or that he  is available on a free transfer. Universitatea also says that Vitesse was also informed of this earlier today, reminding them that speaking with a player without the club’s permission is forbidden and threatened to take further action against both the player and Vitesse, if they don’t stop negotiating!

The red and white exodus

January 28, 2011 Leave a comment

The first half of season hasn’t been that bad for Dinamo, who lies just outside the places that guarantee a spot in Europa League, but the club was a mess. With less and less support from the fans, increasing financial problems, after the loss of three important shareholders, and a team that Ioan Andone was struggling to control, discipline and unite, the Red Dogs were barking, but not threatening to bite as hard as the other title challengers.

It was vital to act swiftly during the winter break and what the club did might sound suicidal, for the current season’s goals: 9 players were sent away, either on loan or for good, with the following considered regular starters and good enough, in theory, for any team in Liga I:

  • Juan Pablo Garat - 27, central defender, 10 games / 1 goal, released;
  • Ousmane N’Doye – 32, defensive midfielder, 13 games / 5 goals, sold to Astra Ploiesti;
  • Adrian Cristea – 27, playmaker, 17 games / 7 goals, sold to Universitatea Cluj;
  • Florin Bratu – 31, forward, 7 games / 2 goals (on loan to Levski), free transferred to Gaz Metan;
  • Andrei Cristea – 26, forward, 11 games / 4 goals, sold to Karlsruhe;
  • Marius Niculae – 29, striker, 16 games / 3 goals, loaned to Kavala (with buying option);

It only looks suicidal… First of all, because the title was an unrealistic target, given the distance that separates Dinamo from he current leaders, but mainly due to the high number and good quality of the other contenders, with Rapid, Poli Timisoara and FC Vaslui convinced that this is their season. Secondly, in spite of the names and the stats from above, the red and white outfit can still count on some of the finest attacking prospects in Romania, with the likes of Gabriel Torje, Marius Alexe and Liviu Ganea relishing the chance to feature on a regular basis and support the excellent player and professional that is Ionel Danciulescu. There will also be some relief among those responsible in delivering the wages, as the budget will suffer a serious cut and probably allow the entire team to start getting paid on time, on a regular basis.

The only thing Dinamo must do now is to use this month as a foundation for a strategy that has always delivered and keep on betting on young, ambitious players. But, with so much time left before the end of the winter mercato, the recent signing of a 31 years old from the bottom-placed team and the club’s willingness to test unknown foreign players, who are closer to their 30′ than their 20’s, we might be only witnessing Dinamo’s desperation to get rid of the high-earners and intention to buy some more time to prepare another one or two important sales…

Robinson Zapata: poor for Steaua, excellent for Galatasaray!

January 19, 2011 4 comments

Zapata can put behind in style a terrible 2010!

Bought for half of million Euros in the summer of 2007, Robinson Zapata was one of the Steaua’s rare succesful buys from abroad. He signed a four years long deal and had no problems in keeping his place in goal, as long as the selection was correct. The signing of the promising Ciprian Tatarusanu for 1,5 million Euros complicated things, though, and Gigi Becali’s pressure on the always obedient coaches paid off, with Tatarusanu taking over from the Colombian goalie and keeping his place in the team even when his performances looked below-par. Named the best keeper in Liga I at the end of the 2008-2009 season, as well as after the first half of the 2009-2010, “Rufay” had to make way for Tatarusanu and finished a terrible 2010 training and playing with Steaua’s reserve team, in the Romanian second division. He was relieved to be released on a free transfer in December, with six months to go on the current deal, and Galata’s interest is a deserved sign of appreciation for an experienced goalie, with a fantastic ability to adjust to new environments far from home & to compete under pressure. Not to mention that a completed deal, which could become reality in a matter of days, as Rufay is expected for a medical in Istanbul, would put Steaua’s management in a bad light once again. But that’s not news or a big surprise anymore…

Meet the manager that pays the club’s owner salary! In Romania, the land of bad choices…

January 14, 2011 2 comments

Piturca’s arrival was perfect for the struggling Universitatea, one of the most beloved teams in Romania and a traditional rival for the Bucharest sides that had now every reason to fear again “The White and Blue Love”. Some of the most promising Romanian players were going to shine under the command of the former national team coach, who came to Craiova with a very ambitious project based on the strangest agreement you’ll ever know between a manager and a club’s owner.

Victor Piturca and Adrian Mititelu failed to work together for Universitatea's sake. Photo by gsp.ro

It was all due to Adrian Mititelu’s huge financial problems, who was struggling to keep the club running, but was hoping to cash out on a blocked deal that should have cleared, according to his expectations, around 40 million Euros. In cash! By the end of August, after a short affair with Steaua’s aggressive owner, Gigi Becali, Piturca agreed to sign a three years long deal as a manager, but he was supposed to be a lot more than that, as he had promised to loan the club (with interest!) the needed money to survive until January 2011. By that time, the owner should have paid back the borrowed money and make available 5 million Euros in the club’s account, as the current season’s budget. That should have kicked-off Piturca’s plans to rebuild the squad and prepare it for his only goal in Romania: the title challenge.

The club was a total mess! The staff was unpaid for almost an entire year. The players, for 5 to 8 months. The unpaid bills for the stadium’s and the club’s utilities were huge. Former players that had sued Universitatea could have blocked Piturca’s transfer plans, so they also required tens of thousand Euros in compensation. Each. The club’s training camp needed investment as well, with the water coming through the ceiling. Basically, it was a miracle that Universitatea was playing first division football. In fact, no, it was the fault of the always lenient authorities, who are wondering why there is so much chaos in football, no interest from solid investors and companies to step in and the current lack of international results. It was a worrying reality, not a miracle. But that’s another story…

Piturca used his money to solve most of these problems and his knowledge to improve the squad. The extremely passionate crowd immediately responded, and the manager’s nickname “Satan” was going to get a pair of white wings. Over 20.000 fans returned to “Ion Oblemenco” and there was talk about the European competitions, where Craiova had left its mark back in 1982, by reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup, after taking out clubs like Fiorentina, Bordeaux and Kaiserslautern. What was going on behind the scenes remained a secret the whole time, until the beginning of this week, when everything surfaced.

Unable to come up with the money and feeling that he has no more control over his club, Adrian Mititelu asked the bodyguards to stop Piturca and his staff at the gates, as they were coming to meet the team and resume training, after the winter break. The owner had been angered by the manager’s decision to consider a deal that would have sent some of the club’s hottest prospects to CFR Cluj, as well as his lack of reaction to the iminent departure of the unpaid Bulgarian players, Iliev and Gargorov. Piturca, on the other hand, saw CFR’s offer as a chance to cash in on a few millions and realized that, since August, he had been the only one to invest money in the club, so he asked Mititelu to respect the agreement and start delivering.

The bubble burst in Romanian style and a huge televised scandal followed, with the important facts covered in hilarious comments. The bald Mititelu: “You hired bald cooks at the club!”. The bold Piturca: “Your cook was only able to make scrambled eggs. You don’t even know what prosciutto and parmesan are!”. It was a mistake from the manager, who should have sticked to other incredible facts, besides the ones presented above: the club’s owner was also hired as a General Director, so he was paid by Piturca since August with 10.000 Euros/month, according to his contract; the club’s owner used to come up after matches and take all the cash collected from the sold tickets, for personal use; all the payments made by Piturca came directly from his pocket, as Universitatea had the bank accounts frozen (by the way, do you think the Romanian authorities reacted when hearing this?).

Right now, as Mititelu should pay Piturca 5 million Euros in case of a sacking, the manager and his staff have been suspended and are under investigation for “unprofessional behaviour”, hoping that Piturca will eventually resign. The team passed today the medical exam and a new coach is expected to take over. The angered fans are gathering daily to protest against this treatment and hoping to determine Mititelu to step away. Whatever happens in Craiova won’t matter much, though. What really matters is when the rules will be applied in Romanian football – I wonder what FIFA and UEFA think of this organized chaos –  and the game will reject such characters and severely punish similar practice. It should happen more or less at the same time when the entire Romanian society will find some respect for the law and will sense that the blindfolded woman holding a balance in her hand doesn’t obey political orders anymore and treats everyone the same.

Gaz Metan pushing for a place in Europe: Florin Bratu goes to Medias!

January 13, 2011 1 comment

Those who have read my blog know that I have the utmost respect for Gaz Metan’s manager, Cristi Pustai, who did a great job in creating this team from scratch and ensuring a constant progress, turning a second division club into a serious contender for a place in Europe, without spending a lot of money and with the calculated moves you’d expect from a Maths teacher.

Bratu, 31, will certainly try to prove that he's not finished

Today, when his club officially presented Florin Bratu, the forward released by Dinamo Bucharest and in-demand not just in Liga I, he might have done the sort of move that could help him finish his project. 31, not exactly in top shape – has tried to regain match fitness in Bulgaria, in the first half of season, after a nasty injury – Bratu boasts enough quality to solve the team’s biggest problem. Without a natural goalscorer since Bud’s transfer to CFR Cluj, Pustai had to rely on Eric de Oliveira, the Brazilian playmaker, who is spending his last season in Medias. Bratu’s arrival, who should fit perfectly into Gaz Metan’s counter-attacking style, should add the much needed extra-dimension and it would be great if the club will have the chance to keep Eric until the end of his loan from Metropolitano, as this team could do a lot more damage in the second half of season.

Although some say he’s past it, Bratu, who scored 43 goals in 115 Liga I matches, collected 13 caps with the national team and played abroad for Galatasaray, Nantes, Valenciennes and Litex Lovech, could finish his career in style here. Famous for the excellent pace and ability to find the net with placed shots, he should benefit from the excellent work ethic within Gaz Metan’s squad and deliver in the delicate moments, having the experience and the composure to play under pressure. And, hopefully, help this small, but well organized club get a taste of European football next season.

Romania’s U19 hopes for success, applying North Korea’s training methods!

January 13, 2011 2 comments

Ionut Lupescu was expected to find inspiration in Germany, not North Korea...

Unable to reach final tournaments at any level with the national team, Romania’s U19 got a break and qualified as the hosting nation for the games scheduled in the summer.  Chiajna, Branesti, Berceni and Mogosoaia – all small villages outside Bucharest – will host the games that will be played between the 20th of July and the 1st of August, a tournament that Romania hopes to finish as one of the best four teams involved. Realistic chances to do it? None! Leaving aside the technical and tactical ability, it’s obvious that the young lads used mainly in the youth/reserve teams of the big clubs or in a mediocre second division aren’t mentally prepared for a successful campaign, but the U19’s coach came up with a plan backed by the Federation: a five months long training camp!

If I didn’t expect much from Lucian Burchel, the mediocre U19 coach and the man with the brilliant idea of copying what North Korea did before the World Cup, I must say I was surprise to see that Ionut Lupescu, who is now running things at the Romanian Football Federation, had nothing against it. According to prosport.ro, it all stopped because two clubs with players selected at this level refused to release them: Chindia Targoviste (now in third division, but controlled by Gheorghe Popescu) and Viitorul Constanta (second division, representing Gheorghe Hagi’s Academy). Apparently, Lupescu turned red and went on to accuse them of lack of vision and said they were only following their interests, but stopped from going further down that dangerous path and said that the Federation won’t punish the two clubs. Instead, the U19 will give up the initial plan and will prepare intensively for the tournament, with just one month to go before the kick-off and probably less ambitious plans…

Another poor piece of business from Steaua. This time, under Mihai Stoica’s command!

January 10, 2011 1 comment

Back at Steaua, Mihai Stoica doesn't look for bargain buys anymore

Appreciated for his football knowledge, eye for players, ability to ease Gigi Becali’s harsh words into Steaua’s dressing room and especially protect the club from outside attacks, Mihai Stoica received a deserved warm welcome at his return from Unirea Urziceni. The chaos within the club packed with Becali’s relatives and obedient professionals was going to end and Steaua was going to at least leave the impression of the most professional and well organized club in the country. Not to mention look like it has a strategy for more than the current season and all the mercato activity will turn into profit and sporting success, something everyone witnessed at Unirea.

The winter break arrived and there are some strange things going on at the Bucharest side, who gave up easily on the experienced Bulgarian midfielder Angelov and the prolific Greek centre-forward Kapetanos (who, for the record, spent part of last summer in South Africa, enjoying some World Cup football), considering their wages too high and that the squad provides enough quality replacements. Two debatable arguments, as 250.000 Euros/season isn’t a big salary for a title contender/Champions League team wannabe, while the use of the mentioned alternative solutions will make the bench look short and unreliable.

Gabriel Matei, left, playing against a future colleague and another costly signing, Cristian Tanase

Even more strange is Steaua’s approach when it comes to buying players, with the first important signing a highly rated right back, you’ve probably never heard of, if you’re leaving outside Romania. No, it’s not Otelul’s Cornel Rapa, available for under one million Euros, who recently made his debut for the senior national team and is topping the standings at club level, showing impressive consistency at the tender age of 21, having played for 90 minutes in all the 18 games of the season. We’re talking about Gabriel Matei, also 21, who will only be taking Rapa’s place in the U21 and is hoping to avoid relegation for his second consecutive season in Liga I. A player with a total of 33 matches at this level, which determined Steaua to pay an incredible 600.000 Euros and promise Pandurii either 20% of his next transfer fee or another half of million Euros. Of course, the kid, who will continue to fight to avoid relegation until the summer, is tipped for greatness, but I invite you to put your imagination on hold for a second and look at it like a piece of business:

1.       How often Romanian clubs manage to sell a player for over 1 million Euros?
2.       Why did Steaua rush to finalize the deal now, if the agreement states that the player will stay Pandurii for the rest of the season?
3.       What could have raised Matei’s value until the summer so highly, that a deal would have become impossible under the current terms?
4.       Wouldn’t have been as many chances to see a possible increase from a few more U21 caps compensated or even outdone by a possible relegation from Pandurii, at the end of the season?

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