Title race preview: Steaua Bucharest
Position last season: 3rd place
Looking back at the club’s yet another tormented season, you could say it didn’t end too bad after all. As expected, Ilie Stan couldn’t finish the campaign and the very experienced and too humble Mihai Stoichita took charge towards the end, with the team showing glimpses of what could be done if everyone would mind his business. Last winter, some quality Romanian players were added to the roster, investments that could pay dividends this year, with the likes of Vlad Chiriches and Alexandru Chipciu already settled, but is it wise to predict that everything will go smoothly under the ownership of Gigi Becali – in spite of all the efforts of Mihai Stoica to protect the team?
Important transfers out: Geraldo Alves (central defender, key player)
I can’t understand how a player like Bruno Alves’ brother, experienced, solid & professional, can be released without a second thought. He played some excellent games in central defense & gave his best in other positions, when the team was in need, and – mark my words – he will be missed this season, when Steaua has decided to promote so obvious the pair Chiriches – Florin Gardos that simply forgot to take into account suspensions or, worse, long term injuries. Alongside Geraldo, the Bulgarian Valentin Iliev – who also provided good cover, making a couple of great matches along the way – was also released and Steaua signed an injured Doru Bratu, from Concordia Chiajna…
Not very wise, as it was the call that sent Mihai Radut on loan to Pandurii. A number 10 that, apparently, will be also needed in Laurentiu Reghecampf new tactical setup, and here’s another bet: the player will shine under the excellent Petre Grigoras, while Steaua will rely on Tiberiu Balan and Raul Rusescu, two players that will eventually determine Reghecampf to give up a setup that requires a central attacking midfielder.
Important transfers in: Mihai Pintilii (defensive midfielder, Pandurii Targu Jiu)
It’s not the first time when Steaua makes the mistake of investing in players from struggling teams, thinking they can be decisive in the title race, the following year. This time, Doru Bratu, Lucian Filip and Adi Rocha came along with Reghecampf, from Concordia Chiajna. Bratu’s injured and only a backup solution (with so many other options around…), but the greatest expectations come from the Brazilian forward, who scored 8 goals in his first 15 matches in Liga I. Adi Rocha has a history of long term injuries and staying fit will be his biggest challenge, in my opinion. Too bad for Filip, though, who looks like a decent player (U21 national team player), as he plays in a well covered role, the same role that had Alexandru Bourceanu and can now count on another national team player, Mihai Pintilii. A top buy, one that makes Steaua look ambitious, look strong in the market and willing to add quality, proven players. Unfortunately, it’s Steaua’s only move of the summer with these attributes…
My prediction: The fans are there, the aura is there, the next stars of Romanian football are there, but Gigi Becali’s also there… Can’t say where exactly they’ll finish upfront, but definitely can’t say they’ll win the league.