Four rounds gone in Romania and a lot of clubs keep on working on their rosters. A sign of ambition, but also of some average work done during the summer, considering that all the moves presented below could have been done in the same conditions even a couple of months ago.
Steaua, who decided to release the once highly rated Florin Costea, bought Lukasz Szukala, a 28 years old central defender, who comes for a reported fee of 0.5 million Euros. The player was requested by Laurentiu Reghecampf (he was the one who brought him to Romania from Germany’s lower leagues back in 2010) and comes after two full seasons for Gloria Bistrita and Universitatea Cluj and two full… matches played for Petrolul.
The deal was supposed to be more complex, as Steaua requested Adrian Cristea as well, admitting to a mistake signaled a while ago: Reghecampf needs a number 10 in his ideal tactical setup and it was a mistake to allow Mihai Radut to move on loan to Pandurii. Radut who now has 3 goals in 3 matches played under the excellent coach Petre Grigoras. But that’s another story…
Petrolul not only resisted the temptation to sell Cristea (helped by some pressure quickly applied by the ambitious fans!), but also used some of the money received for Szukala to sign Geraldo Alves. A 32 years old central defender who was released by… Steaua this summer after two very good seasons and 54 appearances for the red and blue outfit. Another mistake made by the club’s management, heavily influenced by the vocal owner Gigi Becali, as the young couple Chiriches-Gardos lacks consistency and good backup (what a surprise!).
Petrolul makes a very good signing, in spite of the player’s age, considering the wolves’ ambition to challenge at least for the European places this season, and tomorrow there will be a hot game versus Rapid, who had a two weeks break and went on a mini training camp to solve some internal issues. The Bucharest side also signed a striker, Marius Bilasco, who was never a top scorer (12 goals for Unirea Urziceni in the title winning season 2009/2010) and comes after a terrible period, poor decisions getting him to clubs like Tianjin Teda or Energie Cottbus, where he rarely played. Bilasco is the type of useful centre-forward though and should provide good competition for Blaze Ilijoski, who featured in 6 games since his transfer from FC Brasov, scoring just once.
Rapid missed out on two targets though, as Dacian Varga and Costin Curelea will move from Sportul Studentesc to FC Vaslui. On loan once again, as Vasile Siman, the club’s owner, has a habit of requesting huge transfer fees for his players. Varga is a left winger who can also feature on the right and has an interesting story, playing twice on loan for Kuban Krasnodar (and not bad at all, I might add), yet he always had to return to the club that relegated now to the second division. Curelea is also considered one of the good Romanian strikers, yet none of the top clubs managed to come up with a good enough offer for Siman in the past three years. He’s now 28 and for the first time moves away from Sportul Studentesc, where he scored 77 goals in 242 matches played in the first & second league…
The news broke after Dinamo’s 2-0 win away at Sportul Studentesc, a game Gabriel Torje wasn’t able to finish, with the words “it’s not serious, felt suffocated” on his lips while taken off the pitch by Dinamo’s worried medical staff. The young international might have lost his breath while making yet another attempt to impress, but according to prosport.ro and gsp.ro Dinamo finally got a pleasing offer for the player, of 4 or 5 million Euros offered by Udinese. So, risking a physical punishment from the experienced Marius Niculae for playing mostly on his own, looking for goals, Torje might be lucky enough this time to dribble his way out of this, all the way to Italy.
It might look like an excellent deal for the Bucharest side, who also sold a couple of years ago Stefan Radu to Lazio, for 5,4 mil. E, but it’s not and the Red Dogs were right to invest in the little winger, but wrong to pay initially 2 mil. E to Politehnica Timisoara for only 50% of his transfer rights. With the other half bought for a similar amount and no trophies won while having the player in the team, they can only be proud to have offered Torje the chance to impress, which he obviously did.
Promoted by Gheorghe Hagi when he was still 16 and dubbed by Timisoara’s fans “Messi from Banat” (Banat is a region in the Western part of the country), Messi, sorry, Torje deserves credit for staying focused on the job, in spite of a couple of delicate moments, which usually happen to every young player that meets the Capital’s nightlife. He kept on improving as a player, getting better and better on and off the ball, which you could notice every once in while, in between the numerous episodes from the past year when he was annoyingly selfish.
Even so, his record isn’t bery impressing, with 19 goals and 23 assists in 129 matches played for Dinamo in all competitions. He also collected 9 caps in Romania’s senior and often pathetic national team, scoring once. Previously monitorred by Paris Saint Germain, Hamburg, Wolfsburg or Lille, he’s finally off and it’s hard to find a better club than Udinese in promoting such a young player. He might not turn into Messi, but if “I friulani” make him good enough to play alongside Messi, it should be good enough, right?
PS For any abuse that might follow if tomorrow morning it was just another false press report, please use the above mentioned websites. Thanks! :-)
Steaua makes the second most expensive signing in the club’s history: Mihai Costea, from Universitatea Craiova
Gigi Becali didn’t learn a single thing from the 2009 deal that saw Cristi Tanase move from FC Arges to Steaua, in exchange of an incredible 1.8 million Euros, for just 50% of the player’s rights! Tanase has been a huge disappointment so far, in spite of glimpses of quality, like the Anfield display, when he scored against Liverpool, in the Europa League, but that doesn’t stop the Bucharest side make a second, very similar deal.
Yesterday, Becali announced that in a matter of days the smaller of the Costea brothers will join Steaua in the summer. The transfer’s details: 1.4 million Euros for 60% of the player’s rights! Becali said that he initially tried to get Florin, but in spite of a 3 million Euros offer, Craiova’s owner refused to sell, as the deal would have angered the fans. In fact, this is probably a strategy to calm them down anyway, with a third hot prospect joining a Bucharest club, after the other two former U21 players, Valerica Gaman and Stefan Barboianu, now playing for Dinamo.
Does Mihai Costea, who scored only 2 goals in 20 appearances this season!, deserve such an impressive investment? Definitely not. Do you expect to sell him for what? 4 million Euros? Another detail that doesn’t click: looking at the standings and knowing Universitatea’s financial struggle, there was absolutely no rush in concluding the deal now, not to mention the lack of competition for Mihai Costea’s signature! Why not wait until the summer, then, when Craiova might be below the line and with a bigger pressure to sell?
Well, selling Stancu to Galatasaray for 6 million Euros (only half goes to Steaua, the other half wil fill the agents’ pockets) might have something to do with Becali’s “generosity”. In my opinion, though, this deal is definitely related to the “liasons” that make the ball bounce strangely in some matches and Romanian football just a fascinating game, amusing if watched from the right distance, but scary at every approach. With no clear financial rules, no relation to the other European markets and just a firm belief that every player that gets to start a Liga I game should deserve at least one million Euros. But, there’s saying: stupid is the one who pays, not the one who asks…
Three central defenders have signed for the Bucharest clubs, but every single transfer has a rather debatable reasoning:
Ersin Mehmedovic to Dinamo – the Red Dogs have had such a poor defensive record in the first half of the season that any addition would seem good enough. Moti, who was once considered Serie A material, has been out of form for more than a year, but Garat, Grigore and Scarlatache were so poor or inconsistent that he never lost the first spot in the pecking order of a former defender, Ioan Andone, who is now in charge of the team. Signing the towering Serbian centre-back seems, from this point of view, justified, but the 29 years old, who comes after two great years and a miserable half of year with Unirea Urziceni, will only provide backup to the first choice pair: (the newly and contested international) Dragos Grigore – Cosmin Moti. So, why not promote a young(er) lad, considering that Dinamo’s most realistic chance to earn a place in Europe remains the Romanian Cup? It’s even harder to explain it, as we were experiencing the rejuvenation of the pack, in all the other areas…
Valentin Iliev to Steaua – The Bulgarian has played a solid first half of season in Romania, for Universitatea Craiova, and moves to Bucharest for not-such-a-free transfer, as he gets a hefty 250.000 Euros bonus on the spot, a trick to make him look like he’s not earning than the rest of the squad, with his 10.000 Euros/month deal that stretches until June 2012. In truth, Steaua’s chiefs are only fooling themselves. They’re dribbling their own decision to cut down wages, which forced good players like Kapetanos or Angelov away from the club, and preparing to replace a high earner like Geraldo with another one, of the same age, but, in my opinion, not in quite the same class. Not to mention that, at the moment, Steaua’s options for the role were probably the best in the league, with the experienced Galamaz and Geraldo plus the new sensation, Gardos. And should I say that the club’s biggest problems are at the other end, with Bilasco, Surdu, Burdujan and Dica yet to click and offer some guarantees that they’ll be able to provide the much needed goals for an improbable title challenge?
Pavel Vidanov to Rapid– another Bulgarian, another solid defense, but at least this signing makes some sense! Vidanov is 22 and, as a senior international (4 caps for Bulgaria), can be considered a bargain at a price way under half of million Euros. In fact, it could turn out to be an excellent deal, although I expect him not to be rushed into the team, where he’ll find quicker some space on the right side, rather than in the centre, where Marcos Antonio and Marius Constantin have done great in the first half of season, plus worked together the entire winter break.
Nikola Ignjatijevic, from Red Star Belgrade, is a Poli Timisoara player and has time until June 2011 to land a better and longer deal with the Viola outfit. The 27 years old is described as a solid left back, good on the ball, who can deliver quality balls from the flank and also pose a threat with his shooting ability (thanks, Dusan!), so, he’s definitely a good addition for Poli.
Ignjatjevic had entered the last six months of his deal with Red Star and had lost his spot in the team, after the arrival of Dusko Tosic, so it was a nice move for the Romanian club. What’s left in the dark, though, is the current situation of Laszlo Sepsi, who was bought from Benfica for a lot of money and has filed a request to be released by the club. Poli’s board members didn’t look very confident when asked to comment, trying to touch a soft spot with their full of regrets statements, so I expect the 23 years old to become available on a free transfer, in the near future. That would turn his transfer to Poli from a hit into a terrible decision, but won’t help much his career either, given the timing and the lack of options to move to a better club immediately. And that’s too bad, as Sepsi is among the top 3 left backs in the league and at a very good age to make the next step and continue his development…
The “director” is Mircea Rednic, former Liga I champion with Dinamo and Rapid. The setting is in Azerbaidjan, where Rednic tries to interrupt Neftchi Baku’s supremacy with FK Khazar Lankaran, a team he took over in July 2010, signing a two seasons long deal, with the sights set on winning the title. After 19 rounds, he’s just one point behind Neftci and fully convinced that with a slightly stronger side he could deliver even at the end of his first season in charge.
In December, he returned to Romania on an active vacation, stating his interest in over a dozen players from Liga I and entering negotiations with several teams, including his former clubs. It wasn’t enough that he had already in the team four Romanian players (Iordache – 30 years old, centre back; Arbanas – 27, utility defender; Doman – 22, attacking midfielder; Stelian Stancu – 29, right midfielder) and two other players recruited from Liga I (Romanovs – 32, goalkeeper; Parks – 29, striker), he wanted more. A lot more. Slowly, he started to work on his long shortlist, checking one target after another and, at this point, with no sign that he’s satisfied, has closed deals with Dinamo, Rapid, Pandurii and Gloria Bistrita and could return to Azerbaidjan with 6 new players from Liga I. Here they are:
- Andrei Muresan - defensive midfielder, 25, bought from Gloria Bistrita, although he was also a target for Rapid Bucharest!
- Carlos Cesinha - left winger, 30, bought from Rapid, where he looked classy at times, but had became inconsistent and prone to injuries lately.
- Carlos Cardoso - left back, 25, bought from Pandurii Targu Jiu. Was also a target for Dinamo!
- Nicolae Musat - left back, 24, loaned from Dinamo, with a buying option in the summer
- Adrian Scarlatache - right back/centre back, 24, loaned from Dinamo, with a buying option in the summer
- Georgian Paun - forward, 25, loaned from Dinamo, with a buying option in the summer
If the last four will probably be utility/reliable players, Muresan and Cesinha can be considered very good deals, with the anchorman very useful in adding steel in midfield and organizing the build-up and the Brazilian an excellent forward on his day! All the deals required an investment of around one million Euros, so, if it’s true that Rednic has another half of million available, it won’t be a surprise to see others joining the colony, having the chance not just to earn more money than in Romania, but also to win some trophies…
The Argentinian who, in his youth, worked as a bricklayer eight hours a day, while playing for a third division club, signed today a three and a half years long deal with Galata, the same period he spent in Cluj. A consistent player, he collected 89 matches for CFR, but scored only 3 goals in Liga I, a rather poor record for a midfielder who’s more valuable in attack than in defense. He’s been a key player nevertheless and leaves Romania after two triumphs in the league and some memorable performances, like this amazing brace (who said he doesn’t score enough?) against AS Rome:
A versatile two-footed player, he can cover several roles in midfield, can provide very good service from the flank, and is a reliable set-plays taker. Has good work-rate and will play his part in getting the ball back, but has one major problem: he keeps the ball too much, trying to find space and time for the decisive pass, often slowing down the build-up. At least once per game you’ll see him crossing from one side to the other with the ball at his feet, paralyzing his team-mates, who ran out of ideas and space in the opposition’s half. This might be seen more rarely in Istanbul, though, as I expect Culio to lose some of the freedom he enjoyed in Cluj, where he was often the only midfielder able & in charge of opening up the opposition’s defense.
The financial details of the move presented in the Romanian press: 1,5 million Euros upfront + 0,5 million Euros in the summer for CFR Cluj. In February 2009, CFR had turned down a 4 million Euros from Rubin Kazan!
- Culio, on the move to Galatasaray: “It’s a dream move for me, I’m delighted. It’s an honor to have Hagi as a coach and I’m impressed with the conditions at this great club”.
- Culio, in November 2008: “Cluj is just a station in my career, I hold an Italian passport and my dream is to be able to play in Serie A at one point”.
Timisoara moved as quickly as Tosaint Rickets had gone past its defense, when the Viola met MyPa, at the beginning of the season, and secured his signature at a moment when all the other Liga I clubs “work” in the press, negotiating all sorts of deals and swaps for unrealistic prices.
The Canadian forward gets the nicest sign of appreciation from a club he could have hurried out of the European competitions in August, as he scored three goals in the two encouters that finished 5-4 on aggregate for FC Timisoara. Ricketts has left such a good impression that his new club ignorred his rather poor scoring record from Finland – 9 goals in the past two seasons – and offered him a three years long deal, with the option to extend it for another two.
PS If I were him, I would have gone straight to Timisoara’s centre back Marian Cisovsky and said a big “thank you!”…
It has become official: the two players tested during the last break caused by the Euro 2012 qualifiers have signed for one of the most in-form teams in Liga I, Poli Timisoara.
Jiri Krejci is a 24 years old central defender, who came after a short and unsuccessful spell in Greece, with Iraklis, while the Brazilian Carlos Rafael Rocha is a 21 years old left sided player, at his first attempt to impress in Europe. If Krejci will have to fight for his place in the squad, as Poli can rely on the experienced duo Burca-Cisovsky and has also involved as much as possible the promising Luchin and Mera in the past couple of season, Rafael is a much needed backup for Timisoara’s only natural left back, Laszlo Sepsi.
Interesting fact: Rafael was recommended by Poli’s Brazilian wing-back Helder, who is playing on loan from Nancy and has impressed with his outstanding pace and appetite for attacking football, and Timisoara’s coach Cosmin Contra says he was convinced by the left back’s skill, pace and ability to read the game.