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.
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.
Well, this can only happen in Romania: a Dutch coach, with an excellent reputation, who comes here to save a team from relegation, is accused of something Romanian players, referees, club officials and club owners are doing on a regular basis! That’s why foreign coaches and players should think twice before saying yes to an offer to come here.
In Romania, football is a mud fight – and I’m not referring to the muddy pitches ;-) – once you’re in, it’s impossible to come out clean!
PS For those interested in Craiova’s scenario (who offered it to the press, putting more pressure on a coach that should get a lot of money, if sacked), Wotte has been accused that before the game against International (lost 1-3, at home) he went to a meeting with people close to International’s owner, Benone Lazar. Wotte is currently suspended, which means that he’s still under contract, but not allowed to train the players and sit on the bench, with veteran midfielder Eugen Trica and Craiova’s legendary player Ilie Balaci taking care of things until the end of the season.
Not the most popular guy in Craiova, Universitatea’s owner, Adrian Mititelu, the guy who decided to move the team to a different city (Severin) starting 2010, broke into tears on TV, when he was asked about Florin Costea’s injury! The guy could only say that he’s not able to talk and hung up, as the team’s best player faces a very long spell on the sidelines, after the injury suffered during the weekend. Fouled inside the box by Politehnica’s keeper Branet (the ref didn’t award a deserved penalty!), Costea had his left knee severely damaged and will stay away from the pitch for at least 7-8 months! It’s a huge blow for Universitatea, who is still waiting for right back Ovidiu Dananae to return from a similar injury suffered in August 2009…
Florin Costea has collected 106 appearances in the blue and white outfit, scoring 45 goals in the process, and this year he had featured in 20 matches, scoring 9 goals.
Although club owner Adrian Mititelu tried this winter to appoint former NT coach Victor Piturca as general manager, he must find satisfaction in convincing his son, Alexandru Piturca (26), to sign for the club.
The striker comes as a free agent, after a poor half of season in Brasov, where he failed to earn a spot in the first eleven, but after two decent seasons at Pandurii Targu Jiu, where he was important for the team, but never looked like an impressive scorer (9 goals in 51 appearances). His contract with Universitatea will expire in June 2013 and he’ll be paid with 100.000 EUR/season.
- Rapid is trying to sign the former Olympique Marseille and Grenoble forward, Elliot Grandin (22). Of course, the deal will go through only if Grandin will come to Bucharest as a free player, as Rapid is currently trying to get 6 mil. EUR to clear some debt and aquire the license for top flight football next season.
- Another target for Rapid is Ventspils’ Edgars Gauracs (21). In this case, the Bucharest club is hoping for a loan with a buying option in the summer. Gauracs impressed in Latvia U21 – Romania U21 5-1, when he managed to score a hat-trick.
- Marc Wotte is in Romania, finalizing the negotiations with Adrian Mititelu, the owner of Universitatea Craiova. The Dutchman has been offered a contract until June 2010 and should get 20.000 EUR / month + bonuses. My bet is that he won’t stay until the end of the contract, if he signs.
- Polish international Pawel Golanski (27) has entered the last six months of the current contract and Steaua isn’t at all keen to extend it, mainly because the right back was unavailable several times due to different injuries and they’d like a more consistent player. But they’ll probably keep Golanski if he agrees to earn less (around 100.000 EUR / season). Fact: in two and a half seasons, Golanski collected 42 starts in the league and this season featured in 10 of the 17 played so far.