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Manea’s record cannot hide the truth about Romania’s national team

June 2, 2014 1 comment

While others prepare for the World Cup, Romania defeated Albania 1-0 after yet another mediocre performance, in the build-up for the probably easiest ever qualifying campaign for the European Championship. Still, Victor Piturca, the manager who still has a job only because the new head of the Romanian Federation refused to pay him 300.000 Euro, the price for an early termination of his contract, stated afterwards that Romania has the ability to defeat any team. Probably by boring it to death.

Piturca will also show great proud for his incredible courage of fielding the 16 years old Cristian Manea in a friendly, meaningless match, the Viitorul defender breaking a very old record about the youngest player to feature in Romania’s senior team.

The truth is, Piturca, as always, is not really keen on rebuilding this team. He sticks pretty much to the same players and he keeps on using the national team as a stage for players who really need these caps to get new contracts at club level. It’s no coincidence that 5 out of 11 starters are currently out of contract. And I also take this opportunity to present Piturca’s starting eleven vs Albania in a different key, based on club performances in the season that recently ended.

And a bit of math: average age of this starting 11 is 26.3 years. Without Manea, it’s 27.4 years!

romania cristian maneaGoalkeeper: Tatarusanu (27) – Champion with Steaua. Will probably sign with Fiorentina, as a free agent.
Right back: Manea (16) – Youngest ever player to feature in Romania’s senior team. Avoided relegation with Viitorul in the last round of the season.
Central defender: Chiriches (24) – Not so sure about his future with Tottenham, 6th in the Premier League, in spite of some bright performances.
Central defender: Grigore (27) – Won a Europa League spot with Dinamo. Will move to Toulouse, on a free transfer.
Left back: Rat (33) – Avoided relegation with Rayo Vallecano. Currently out of contract.
Defensive midfielder: Bourceanu (29) – Contribution to Steaua’s title and Trabzonspor’s Europa League spot.
Defensive midfielder: Pintilii (29) – Champion with Steaua. Wants to leave the club.
Right winger: Nicolita (29) – Average season with St. Etienne and Nantes. Currently out of contract.
Supporting striker: Chipciu (25) – Champion with Steaua.
Left winger: Maxim (23) – Avoided relegation with VfB Stuttgart.
Striker: Marica (28) – Avoided relegation with Getafe. Currently out of contract.

No worries, I also am quite sure Piturca will be able to take Romania to Euro 2016. But mostly because this one, with 24 teams at the start, will be almost impossible to miss.

Romanian football played behind bars: 8 heavyweights sentenced to prison

March 4, 2014 4 comments

It was called “The transfers file” and, strictly linked to an investigation lead by Gazeta Sporturilor, ended up today, after eight long years, with eight important names sent behind bars, for money laundering and tax evasion. The biggest of all: Gheorghe Popescu, former Romanian international, former Barcelona captain, who was days away from taking over the presidency of the Romanian Football Federation…

“I would have sold players to Bin Laden back then, it was all about getting money”, stated Cristian Borcea a while ago in front of judges who have felt everything, from mockery to fear, during this long period, from the persons pleading their innocence. Borcea was a key shareholder with Dinamo and just like George Copos, who took Rapid from glory to agony during his tenure as club owner, had retired from the spotlight, laying low, hoping it will all go away.

Others haven’t. Brothers Victor and Ioan “Giovani” Becali went on pulling strings on the transfer market, Mihai Stoica was in charge of Steaua, while Gheorghe Popescu had all but moved his family pictures into the office that Mircea Sandu is preparing to leave. Surprisingly, the race for the presidency of the FRF lost its front-runner at the last minute and for a very long time.

Here’s the list of the definitive sentences heard today:

  • George Copos (former owner of Rapid Bucharest) – 3 years and 8 months
  • Mihai Stoica (current Steaua sporting director) – 3 years and 6 months
  • Cristi Borcea (former shareholder at Dinamo Bucharest) – 6 years and 4 months
  • Ioan Becali (FIFA agent) – 6 years and 4 months
  • Victor Becali (FIFA agent) – 4 years and 8 months
  • Jean Padureanu (former president of Gloria Bistrita) – 3 years and 4 months
  • Gheorghe Popescu (former international, lobbied Florin Bratu’s transfer to Galatasaray) – 3 years and 1 month
  • Gigi Netoiu (former shareholder at various clubs) – 3 years and 4 months

All were involved in deals that saw player sold abroad, smaller transfer fees entered in the clubs’ books and part of the real fees ran through personal off-shore accounts.

Here’s the list of transfers that lead to the above sentences:

  • Iulian Arhire – from Otelul Galati to Pohang Steelers (1999)
  • Ionel Ganea – from Gloria Bistrita to VfB Stuttgart (1999)
  • Cristi Dulca – from Rapid to Pohang Steelers (1999)
  • Cosmin Contra – from Dinamo to Deportivo Alaves (1999)
  • Bogdan Mara – from Dinamo to Deportivo Alaves (2001)
  • Paul Codrea – from Dinamo to Genoa (2001)
  • Florin Cernat – from Dinamo to Dynamo Kiew (2001)
  • Nicolae Mitea – from Dinamo to Ajax (2003)
  • Lucian Sanmartean – from Gloria Bistrita to Panathinaikos (2003)
  • Florin Bratu – from Rapid to Galatasaray (2003)
  • Adrian Mihalcea – from Dinamo to Chunnam (2004)
  • Dan Alexa – from Dinamo to Beijing Guoan (2004)

Today’s decisions came as a shock for those involved in Romanian football. Lighter sentences for a couple of those involved and no punishment at all for the likes of Mihai Stoica and Gheorghe Popescu were expected. Well, sometimes, unlike Romanian football, Romanian justice can be unpredictable…

Dreaming to play for Steaua as a kid? Grow up!

February 10, 2014 Leave a comment

The reigning champions, the only Romanian club to win a European trophy, a constant presence on the European stage, the team with the largest fan base in the entire country and the only Bucharest “giant” still performing these days organized a try-out for kids born in 2002, 2003 and 2004. 14 turned up. A shocking number really, not only for Steaua, but for Romania. Still, the red and blue outfit, who is trying to revitalize its youth sector with Italian coach Massimo Pedrazzini in charge, must take a big chunk of the blame.

steaua

Having a wealthy and impatient owner – he’s taking a course on this, now that he’s behind bars – has worked against Steaua in recent years. Used to pick the best talents from all over the country, Gigi Becali’s favorite toy made one attempt to build a proper academy some years ago. Of course, it was burning some stages and basically missing the point, as 16-17-18 years old were bought and integrated into the youth teams, so it’s no surprise, really, that Becali pulled the plug once he saw that a dozen of youth international actually went on to waste their talents under poor guidance and with no early shot at senior football.

Now, after years of mediocrity, some heavy defeats in the youth leagues and a desperate move made to avoid embarrassment in the UEFA Youth League, there’s really no surprise that a message on the club’s website and Pedrazzini’s personal Facebook page (this is another story…) failed to erase the feeling that Steaua, as shiny as the first team looks, provides a bleak future for your kid. The lack of strategy, know-how and patience within the red and blue structures means drastic measures can rock the “academy” at any time, out of the blue. Add to this the chances close to zero to make it in the senior team and it’s obvious why even kids (and dads) who do love Steaua understand that there’s a more concrete opportunity to see such a dream fulfilled by learning the game someplace else. From this point of view, this is a club worth loving from a distance. A 5 star hotel – by Romanian standards – to enjoy as an adult, not a home to grow up in…

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  • The King’s speech. Starring a certain Gheorghe Hagi…

    February 5, 2014 Leave a comment

    hagiGoing to Turkey once, years ago, I was stopped at the security check on Ataturk airport and asked to go inside a booth for a body search. It never took place, as I’ve spent a couple of minutes talking about Hagi. And the officer there wasn’t even a Galatasaray fan…

    They love him. They really do. And those who don’t sing their love for him, because they support Fener of Besiktas, respect him.  I sometimes wonder if it’s the same in Romania. At times, I’m convinced we don’t. Experts in mocking those doing better than us, we’ve found Hagi’s weakness: his speech. Aware that a man so good on the ball can’t be that good with words, we laugh at his interviews. We’ve reduced his fantastic personality to some phrases. We’ve decided to ignore all his  ideas and projects and have a good long look (and laugh) at his words. I admit, he can be funny. Hell, I even use one of his funniest expressions every once in a while, for a good laugh…

    The question is: if I will ever have the chance to meet him, will I be able to find my words? Will I be able to avoid embarrassment and put together a few words? I hope so. At least three of them are necessary. Because I do love him for the fantastic player he was. And for the honest and humble person he is. And for blessing a nation with his skill and for the way he keeps forgiving us for laughing at his continuous attempts to keep on doing some good to Romanian football…

    Today, the great man turns 49. La multi ani, Gica! We do love you, it’s just that, for some reason, we either don’t know or don’t want to show it…

    The Romanian version of “the false 9″

    December 28, 2013 Leave a comment

    Look at the top scorers from Liga 1, with half of season gone, and you won’t see a striker up there. Liviu Antal, a winger, and Eric de Oliveira, a number 10, are leading the charts with 11 goals. That’s a personal record for the FC Vaslui player and a sign of revival from the Brazilian who just got named for the second time the best foreign player in the league. The top three is completed by Astra’s Constantin Budescu, an attacking midfielder who’s enjoying his best season – so, obviously, has to take a lot of stick from Astra’s owner. :) Strikers do follow, don’t worry, but the first one on the list, in its high section, of course, is… Tunisian: Petrolul’s Hamza Younes. We finally find a prolific Romanian striker in the top flight: he’s Szabolcs Szekely, a 29 years old who’s hardly national team material, even though he netted 9 times for the newly promoted club from Timisoara.

    rusescuOk, so Romania lacks a good number 9 in the league, but let’s not forget we had a striker with over 20 goals last season, so let’s have a look abroad… Gone to Sevilla for a decent amount of money, Raul Rusescu played just over 300 minutes and scored 3 goals, ending up on loan to Sporting Braga. But Rusescu was never a real option for Victor Piturca, who relied on two names: Ciprian Marica and Bogdan Stancu. The former Schalke striker signed late with Getafe, but with no real competition within the team collected already 10 appearances in La Liga, scoring just once in the process. Stancu’s doing better, enjoying a decent season in the Turkish league, with 7 goals for Genclerbirligi, but he’ll always be the first to blame after a bad result, Marica’s charisma and clever online presence proving quite useful…

    So, with the “established strikers” misfiring both at home and abroad, the obvious solution would be to gamble, something Piturca used to be good at (until caught cheating in casinos…). But can you ask the national team coach to do that with a player like Sergiu Bus, a 21 years old who scored 7 times this season for a newly promoted club, when his own team refused to give him a proper chance to prove himself? Yes, CFR Cluj has a young striker on its books, but would rather loan him no matter where, although there would be a market for a player of this profile. In the past, it used to make sense, with strikers like Kone or Lacina Traore on the books and the team fighting for the title. But now, when CFR’s top scorer is Ogbu, a 24 years old Nigerian, with 4 goals in half of season, and a 7th place in the standings, you might think that something’s not right. I’d say it’s the strategy and it applies to almost the entire first division, but the owners and the fans would rather stick to the usual suspects… CFR just changed their coach and Piturca is not too comfortable either, so we might just need a few more years (or decades?) to realize we could also do with some proper football players…

    Do you really want to be named best foreign player in Romania?

    December 4, 2013 Leave a comment

    As 2013 comes to an end, GSP prepares to reward those who impressed in Liga I. As always, there is room to discuss about their nominations, considering that a youngster like Dinamo’s Dorin Rotariu, who featured in just 25 league games this year (starting in 11 and playing for 90 minutes only 3 times!) is in the race for the “Romanian best player of the year” award, but there is one category that got my attention.

    The paper published today a list with the top 3 foreign players in the past 5 years and is very interesting what happened with them, although they impressed over here.

    top

    2008 was CFR’s year. Sebastian Dubarbier, an Argentinian winger who was too quick for Liga I, but proved a bad piece of business for Lorient, who spent a lot of cash by there standards in January 2010. A series of loans followed, to Tenerife and Cordoba, and the left footed player finally got a shot at first division football in a top league, once he left Ligue 1 and moved to La Liga, with Almeria.

    He had defeated in 2008 his fellow countryman Juan Emmanuel Culio, signed by Galatasaray in 2010, used for 15 matches and then loaned to other two Turkish teams, before allowing him to move to Spain’s Segunda, at Deportivo. Third placed Yssouf Kone had an even worse faith, struggling to move away from Romania and failing to get back to playing football, after his transfer to Valerenga.

    In 2009, the versatile Pablo Brandan impressed under Dan Petrescu, helping Unirea Urziceni win the title, but not even 1 and a half years with Steaua convinced a European club to gamble on the former Alaves player, who moved to China. The top 3 was completed by two forwards, Wesley and Pantelis Kapetanos, the most prolific foreign players in the league’s history. The Brazilian was going to become a regular presence in this category, while the Greek striker’s career took a rather interesting turn: although a proven goalscorer with Steaua, the Bucharest side surprisingly allowed him to move for peanuts to a rival, CFR Cluj. His career stalled, yet, for some reason, his former club tried to undone that mistake by taking him back last summer.

    Will Eric get a second chance to move abroad or he'll try to get more money (and a trophy) with a bigger Romanian club?

    Will Eric get a second chance to move abroad or he’ll try to get more money (and a trophy) with a bigger Romanian club?

    2010 was an all-Brasilian year, with current Pandurii star Eric de Oliveira impressing in a number 10 role for Gaz Metan Medias and finishing above Junior Moraes and Wesley. Caught in the middle of a dispute between his former and current club and probably badly advised, Eric forced his escape and did some serious damage to what could have been a better career. He moved to Ukraine and played just 6 games for Karpaty, accepting a return to Medias in 2012, in an attempt to get back on track, something he is finally achieving now with Pandurii, two full years after his best season in Liga 1, in which he scored 15 goals in 31 games.

    Junior Moraes and Wesley struggled to convince Western Europe and the former Gloria Bistrita striker initially failed to make an impact with Metalurg Donetsk, but scored 16 goals in 24 games for CSKA Sofia and got himself a second chance with the Ukrainian club.

    Wesley, now 33, won the award twice and is the all-time best foreign goalscorer in Liga 1, with 61 goals, all scored for FC Vaslui.

    Wesley, now 33, won the award twice and is the all-time best foreign goalscorer in Liga 1, with 61 goals, all scored for FC Vaslui.

    Third placed Wesley was going to finally win the award in 2011, a second consecutive all-Brasilian year, a feat he was going to repeat in 2012before getting a great contract from… Al-Hilal. In 2011, he was better than his ageing team-mate Adailton and Marcos Antonio, who was going to get a shot at some top football in the 1.Bundesliga, but proved a terrible signing for FC Nurnberg. Last year, Wesley finished above three players from CFR Cluj, Modou Sougou, Rafael Bastos and Mario Felgueiras, with only the second placed hired by a well-known European name. Olympique Marseille signed him for quite a lot of cash… only to release him after half of season, loaning him to Evian.

    Now, some conclusions:

    • If you’re a foreign player looking for a stepping stone in Romania, you should try and get a deal with CFR Cluj or FC Vaslui.
    • Liga I loves attacking players from abroad, something that can be speculated from a financial point of view, something Kone, Wesley and Kapetanos proved very good at. If you’re not that young anymore, this is a good place to come for some local glory and European currency.
    • Left footed players do make a better impression!
    • It’s best if you come from South America.
    • Just one famous club signed someone from Liga I and it looks like OM quickly realized it was a mistake…
    • If you’re a foreign player trying to get to a top European club via Romania, you should…. think twice.

    Romania needs a miracle on Tuesday night, but nobody can make it happen

    November 18, 2013 2 comments

    We are two goals away from the Brazilian World Cup. And we’re playing at home, pushed by 55.000 souls. It doesn’t look that bad, really, yet there’s an overwhelming feeling that everything was lost in Athens and we’re only waiting for a painfully long confirmation, in Bucharest, on a cold Tuesday night that has so little to do with what awaits the winner in Rio, in the summer of 2014. I’ve not jumped ships, I have been pessimistic about Romania’s chances all along, but in Romanian. Now it’s time to be in English as well, so here are a few thoughts on why this now or never game has so little chances to finish with a dream result.

    The coach

    imagePiturca got it all wrong in Athens, although the team got the away goal that might even prove decisive in the end. Afraid to take any risks with his team

    selection and match strategy, unaware that the key absences (Tatarusanu, Chiriches, Pintilii) weaken precisely the defense he decided to put so much emphasis on once again, unable to react to the opposition’s tactics of outnumbering our central midfielders with the use of both wide forwards and opening up highways on both flanks for the advancing fullbacks, the coach was left to blame poor marking at set plays and a first goals scored from an offside position.

    Now, he gets a hand with his team selection, as Tatarusanu and a masked Chiriches are back, but the loss of two central midfielders (Bourceanu and Lazar) will pose new questions to his ability to select a winning 11. On the other hand, he faces again the type of game he hates and never propery prepared his team for: the one that he’s supposed to win by opening up the opposition’s defense.

    The team

    There’s an obvious lack of quality as far as players are concerned, I’ve said it before, we don’t really deserve to go to Brazil with this lot, but there’s the feeling that blame rests on the Piturca’s shoulders once again, both with the lot he assembles every time and with the choices he makes when it comes to picking the starting eleven.

    Let’s start with Athens.

    He picked Lobont in goal ahead of Pantilimon (according to his selection, the Manchester City shot stopper is Romania’s fourth option, although he recently got the nod – albeit temporarily – ahead of England’s number 1). The veteran from AS Roma, with no official games under his belt, no hunger and little authority, failed to make up for the team’s defensive errors and can only get praise for stopping Greece from netting the fourth goal.

    In central midfield, he paired Bourceanu with Cocis, not Lazar, losing chemistry and technical ability, mocking an entire country with his choice and shocking Cocis himself, who stated afterwards that he never expected to start this game.

    Upfront, behind Marica, he used Torje on the right, who was a regular starter in this campaign, but lost touch with regular football at club level, picked Stancu ahead of Maxim and, as usual, started with Tanase on the left. Picking Stancu ahead of Maxim, who’s one of the most in-form players at club level and has been a hit in the Bundesliga since he joined Stuttgart, is the main criticism Piturca faced during and after the match. I think that’s not the best approach to the matter, and not just because Stancu scored the away goal that still has a (slim) chance to make the difference. He does fit the game strategy Piturca picked for this game, he has a good fitness and form level, has not played that bad recently for the national team. Actually, Stancu deserved to start, so I would say that the best line of criticism is this: leaving Maxim out was a mistake, as he can just as well play on either flanks, where both Torje and Tanase have disappointed, both before and during the Athens encounter.

    Let’s move to the second leg, where Romania is expected to start with Tatarusanu in goal, a back four of Matel, Goian, Chiriches and Rat, Cocis and Gardos in central midfield, Nicolita, Maxim and Stancu behind Marica.

    We get back two players that are vital for our chances to keep a clean sheet, but we are weaker than ever where often a football match is won, as the absence of Bourceanu and Lazar (both suspended) forces Piturca to do a rare thing for him: think outside of the box. The pair Cocis – Gardos is odd to say the least. Gardos has played there years ago, but he’s a central defender. Cocis has played there days ago :), but in truth he’s the type of all round midfielder that can play everywhere, but is yet to find his best role on the pitch. And he’s 30 years old… They never played together either and this pairing puts Piturca on the spot for yet another reason: why did he call up Ovidiu Hoban – who is average and out of form, let’s be honest – if he doesn’t find him up for this game? He is a defensive midfielder, the only available defensive midfielder, yet he’s not Piturca’s third choice, he’s his fifth!

    Romania needs Maxim's skill and creativity to open up the Greek defense.

    Romania needs Maxim’s skill and creativity to open up the Greek defense.

    We move further up the pitch and finally find Maxim among the expected starters, deployed behind Marica, which pushes Stancu wide to the left and pushes Tanase further left, on the bench :). The pressure will be huge for Maxim, whose trickery and cheeky backheel touches have produced nothing but disappointment so far for the national team, on the rare occasions he was give the nod. Yes, let’s be honest and say that Maxim plays better for Stuttgart than for Romania, and let’s stay honest: it happens because Stuttgart tries to play football, while Romania only tries to stop the opposition from playing football. Now, all eyes are on him and Piturca himself showed once again his terrible man management skills, by saying “Maxim will have the chance to prove me wrong in the second led”, a pathetic and useless attempt to divert the blame for not offering his most talented attacking player more than 5 minutes in Athens.

    The prediction

    It’s an all or nothing game, with an ideal scenario of scoring twice and keeping a clean sheet. Not an impossible feat, but a highly unlikely one given all the above arguments. Greece has not impressed me – they also got punished from a set play, in spite of a huge aerial advantage -, but I can’t see Romania able to turn things around. Everything looks lined up against us, from tradition to deal with such games, to the quality of the roster, the obvious limits of the coach and the lack of solutions to line up a competitive starting eleven even in perfect conditions, not only now, when so many problems will influence Piturca’s choices. To be honest, in spite of my belief that we don’t deserve to go to Rio, I would be obviously disappointed if we’d miss out on yet another final tournament, but I’m gutted that nothing will change for us while the current coach remains in charge. And, according to his contract, that’s at least until 2016…

    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 :)

    Pay more attention to nicknames! Standard Liege didn’t…

    August 8, 2013 1 comment

    In Romania, the former international and two times champion, while coaching Rapid and Dinamo, has a nickname difficult to accurately translate into another language, as it seems to refer to his physical appearance, while it was meant to define his character. If it was easier, clubs like Khazar Lankaran and Standard Liege would have been better prepared for Mircea Rednic’s arrival…

    “Strambul” means in fact “The crooked one” and, as good as he is strictly in terms of coaching, Rednic’s hands-on approach in the club’s transfer activity leads him off-track most of the time. I hope my elegant choice of terms doesn’t go unnoticed :)

    Mircea Rednic, a coach who loves to win. Money and matches, not viceversa.

    Mircea Rednic, a coach who loves to win. Money and matches, not viceversa.

    Let’s go back to Rednic’s first adventure abroad, in 2010, when he took over Khazar, a club ready to pay for supremacy in Azerbaijan, so on the table was a two years long deal with 800.000 euros per season for the head coach. That should have been enough, but not for Rednic, who demanded and supervised the arrival of no less than 10 players from Liga 1. Besides some handsome “bonuses” for seeing all these moves through, he won the Cup and finished second in the league, after his first season, which turned out to be also his last. Forced out of the club, he was soon followed by all the players he signed, a reaction that we are seeing now, at a smaller scale, from Standard Liege.

    Rednic used to play for “Les Rouches” and looked like a handy solution to the team’s struggles, when he was appointed halfway through last season. Although offered only a temporary deal, the 51 years old got off to such a good start that during the winter break the club’s board had to give in to his demands and move for two players from Liga 1. The first (shocking) move was the signing of Adrian Cristea, an attacking midfielder considered for ages one of the biggest Romanian talents, but also a champion at wasting his gifts and throwing away his career. Ok, it was only a loan with a buying option from Petrolul, but it was still strange to see him risk his reputation and the chance of signing a long term deal with Standard for one of the laziest and least professional players from Liga 1…

    The second lead to the transfer of George Tucudean, a young striker from the cash-strapped Dinamo. Although (or because?) Rednic was well-aware of his former club’s financial trouble, Standard came up with a naive offer of 800.000 euros + a 200.000 euros bonus in case the team made it into Europe. A deal that could have been done for half that money, but as an official from the Belgian club whom I’ve crossed during a scouting trip told me this was considered collateral damage. “We know who we’ve signed” were the words that convinced me that, no matter how well Rednic did, he was not there to stay.

    Released at the end of last season, although he had resurected the team, winning over the dressing room and the fans, Rednic is now followed by both Cristea and Tucudean. Cristea had his loan terminated, after 8 appearances and no goals (a total of 290 minutes spent on the pitch), while Tucudean, who has a longer deal with the club, was informed that he needs to find himself a new team, as he is out of Standard’s plans. The 22 years old started just one game, played as a sub in 9, failing to find the net and getting himself sent off once. His young age and potential suddenly don’t matter? No, of course not, it’s just that Standard feels that the house needs a proper cleaning process, after Rednic’s stay, a reaction that we’ve seen before and will encounter again in the future. Because “The crooked one”, now in charge of CFR Cluj, doesn’t seem to be lacking offers from clubs with money to throw away spend.

    Keep eating, Budescu!

    August 6, 2013 2 comments

    budescuWith 12 goals scored in 22 starts, last season has finally confirmed Constantin Budescu’s talent, easy to notice since he made his senior debut, aged only 16. But having to wait for it until he turned 23 means there is a reason why Astra Giurgiu’s number 10 still gets the stick. It happened after a 10 minutes hat-trick against Viitorul Constanta, in the first round of the new season, as the club owner Ioan Niculae shocked everybody: “Budescu could turn into a great player, but he needs to get his head right. The essence of life is not a juicy stake and it doesn’t matter if you give it all during training if you drink afterwards one liter of Coke…”

    The player gave a neutral response and kept his focus, which was definitely good to see and an encouraging sign for the rest of a season that could end up with an important change in his career. Budescu added a brace last weekend, in the 5-2 away win vs Corona Brasov, and now leads Liga 1′s scoring charts with 5 goals, while impressive performances have helped his team overcome the nerves of a European debut. Astra already took out Domzale and Omonia and a 3-1 away win against AS Trencin means the tie is already over. In each of these matches, the attacking midfielder managed either a goal or an assist, having 3 goals and 2 assist after five game played in Europa League’s preliminary rounds.

    Eating Going at this rate will surely result in a second call-up to Romania’s senior national team, increase the interest from abroad and decrease the level of criticism he usually has to deal with from his vocal owner. Unless the later has the effect I fear :), we might see this player gifted with a great right foot and a technical ability worthy of a bigger league, come winter time he might be quite far from the tasty, but heavy Christmas Romanian cuisine…  

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