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Sacking Multescu shows that Dinamo doesn’t lack just the money, but also the patience to succeed

September 24, 2013 Leave a comment

The rivalry between Steaua and Dinamo might have been created by the communist regime, but it lasts way beyond that dark period, when the two clubs were wrestling for trophies using all means at hand. Now, it’s all about financial strength and it was no surprise to see Dinamo struggle to keep up with Becali’s high investment in players (and the great decade of Arpad Paszkany’s CFR Cluj), but the gap seems to get bigger with every season.

Dinamo's new owner needs to add patience and knowledge to his ambition to build a strong squad with a small budget.

Dinamo’s new owner needs to add patience and knowledge to his ambition to build a strong squad with a small budget.

After a long process, the Red Dogs finally changed ownership and Ionut Negoita decided to try and hurt Steaua using a wiser and cheaper plan, aware that he lacked the financial strentgh to fight Steaua on the transfer market: Dinamo was ready to invest small money and pay low wages for young players with potential to follow the path of Marius Alexe or Constantin Nica, both raised by the club and sold this summer to Serie A clubs. That required some good work in scouting and recruiting, top coaching and a lot of patience. Well, after 8 rounds, when Negoita decided to release the experienced coach Gheorghe Multescu, as “the team needs a wake-up call”, it became clear, at least to me, that the Bucharest side lacks all of the above… And that Dinamo’s bosses didn’t read Soccernomics :), a book that makes some interesting points regarding how much can a coach raise the level of a team or how much results depend on the wages the players are getting…

In truth, it wasn’t Multescu’s fault that in this first couple of months Dinamo struggled, looked average most of the times and promising once or twice. The work in recruitment was extremely poor, with unproven African players (Fai, Zougoula, Pape), rejected Romanian players (Grecu, Mardare) and poor foreign players with some experience in Liga I (Durimel, Thomas, Hasanovic) unable to add quality. Some promise arrived from the youth team, as Romania U19 international Dorin Rotariu netted his first goals in Liga 1, and maybe this is Multescu’s only fault: he gave more credit to the club’s new signings rather than to the 17-18-19 years old raised in the club’s youth system. And, having seen them, I can say that there’s more talent there than on a transfer market Dinamo has no ability to exploit.

Apart from that, it’s all down to the management, who asked for a reconstruction, but also for a European spot at the end of the season. In light of this firm goal, Multescu was on the wrong path, having collected 9 points in 8 rounds, but how can you ask for both, considering that Dinamo has failed repeatedly to finish among the top teams in recent years, when there was no reconstruction in place? That’s just nonsense and the new coach, the inexperienced Flavius Stoican, will realize it soon enough. Dinamo’s problem is that the new board won’t…

Steaua’s goal in the Youth League: avoid embarrassing results

September 12, 2013 1 comment

Just to prove that “I told you so”, here’s a link on a piece I wrote back in January. Steaua’s U19 and U17 teams were coming after heavy defeats suffered at the hands of Hagi’s Academy and nobody at the club seemed preoccupied about the fact that, in 8 months time, the club’s work at youth level will be exposed in the UEFA Youth League. A competition that’s supposed to act as a platform for young talents, offering them a chance to gain invaluable experience and impress on the European stage, but not for the Romanian champions, who decided years ago that there’s no point in running a decent academy when the owner is rich enough to sign basically any young prospect that makes his way in the top flight and looks promising enough.

Hagi's Academy fuels not just Romania's youth national teams, but also Romania's champion club.

Hagi’s Academy fuels not just Romania’s youth national teams, but also Romania’s champion club.

Well, the 8 months went by quickly and when the club realized that its’ image is at stake in the little brother of the Champions League, worked on an emergency plan. The management struck a deal with Gheorghe Hagi, who cannot hide his affection for the Bucharest club, and a one year long loan deal involving 6 of his players was agreed. The solution will certainly help the team trained by Ion Toma, but the young coach (who made a name for himself and got this contract after impressing in a highschool competition) is realistic enough to keep the expectation level extremely low: “We cannot kid ourselves, our goal is not to get thrashed, to avoid embarrassment.”

Toma isn’t that confident that the injection of quality from Hagi’s Academy can boost Steaua’s chances to do well against the likes of Chelsea, Schalke or FC Basel, but, in truth, he does get some promising faces under his command. Alexandru Tarnovan and Ionut Mitrita have already some first league appearances with Viitorul and, for me, take a big risk by giving up the chance to feature in more senior games this term, in Liga I, in exchange for six appearances in the UEFA Youth League. For their sake, the loan deal will allow them to return to Viitorul in the winter, as playing senior football at this age is vital for their development. Also, Robert Hodorogea and Bogdan Vasile are U19 Romanian internationals, and look consistent and reliable, qualities you don’t see that often in (Romanian) players of their age. Steaua also loaned from Targu Mures another good prospect, Razvan Stoica, while in goal they can count on Valentin Cojocaru, who has been training for a while with the senior team and looked close to a deal with Liverpool, not so long ago.

hagi academy

Still, Steaua’s U19 coach speaks from experience, as he has struggled to make his U19 team click in the previous season and now has little time to make this lot play as a unit. Maybe the help promised by Laurentiu Reghecampf, who will try to pass on his methods and also worke twice a week with the youngsters, can make the difference. Or, better said, can save face. I doubt that a club who has paid so little attention to its youth setup for so many years can trick teams who treated seriously the work in this sector, with just a little help from Hagi, who just found another purpose to his young Academy. Viitorul can even relegate from Liga I – it will qualify every year for the UEFA Youth League :)

Over 20 players from Liga I moved this summer to a better championship!

September 5, 2013 1 comment

It was a summer to remember for Romanian clubs (although the newspapers haven’t noticed it just yet…)! With Chiriches finally moved to Tottenham, we have a new record transfer fee paid for a Liga I player. We also have 5 players signed by Serie A clubs, 3 gone to Ligue 1 and 1 in La Liga, none other than last season’s top scorer. Teams from Belgium, Croatia and Switzerland – good European stepping stones – have made their picks, with Russia and Turkey paying good money to either clubs or players (or both) to sign no less than 7 established footballers. And Steaua decided to keep some in-demand players to make it into the Champions League’s group stage, otherwise the numbers would have been bigger and the figures even more impressive. Below, you can find my top ten transfers of the summer, which is of course debatable, but I’ve tried to filter the twenty-something important moves using as filter the quality and potential of the player in question, age, level of the buying club and level of the league he’s going to.

TOP 10

I, for one, don’t remember a more prolific transfer window in recent years, in terms of fees paid for Liga I’s top names and number of exports, especially to top leagues from Western Europe. Is it just a coincidence or the Romanian league has gained a better reputation? If this would be the case, then we’d have another premiere on our hands, with the clubs’ performances in the internal and European competitions drawing attention, not the exposure offered by Romania’s national team(s). Take Gheorghe Grozav’s case, who was heavily promoted by Victor Piturca and only got a late move to Terek Grozny. Or Ciprian Marica’s, who is struggling to find himself a new club, just like Gabriel Tamas, released by WBA, or Gabriel Torje, who had troubles convincing another club to loan him, a full transfer being out of the question…

Do we have stronger clubs? I can only think of exceptions. Is Liga I more competitive? It surely was two-three years ago – remember the days when Steaua, Dinamo, Rapid, CFR and Vaslui were fighting to get the title from Otelul Galati -, but that race got less and less tensed, with Dinamo’s and Rapid’s financial trouble, and CFR’s and Vaslui’s loss of investment/interest. Do we sign / promote better players? I’d say mainly by accident, considering the amateur take on player recruitment and lack of funds, knowledge and dedication allocated to the youth sector (of course, I will keep Hagi’s Academy out of this!).

Having the chance to see most of the European leagues in the past couple of years, given my assignments in scouting, I think the answer to the question of attractiveness gets a positive note only when related to the level of leagues from Croatia, Serbia, Czech Republic, Poland, not to mention Slovenia, Hungary or Bulgaria. The gap is rather discrete, I must say, and a good player from Liga I is tested in an equally if not more competitive environment than in the mentioned countries, making him prepared enough for a step abroad, in the eyes of visiting scouts. Add some good runs in Europe, like CFR’s or Steaua’s and we’re only kept back by reputation. One that surely doesn’t speak in Romania’s favor, but can be changed by each and everyone who gets the chance to play abroad…

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