Using a list of players who’ve entered the last year of their current contracts published by GSP, I have decided to put together a best eleven that might prove useful even for some clubs who had no time or interest to scout properly Liga 1. We have national team players, players who won the title or who are fighting for it, who impressed in the Champions League, and it will be interesting to see the type of clubs willing to take a risk. Somehow, I get the feeling that most of good foreign clubs look at players from Romania as a big gamble – lack of proper scouting, as I said – so in this case we’re talking about either small stakes in January or almost free bets in June. It can’t get better than that, can it?
Goalkeeper: Ciprian Tatarusanu
Definitely one of the most interesting “cases”, don’t see Steaua able to go down the sentimental road with this guy and get him to sign another deal. Looking at times laid back, lacking intensity and passion, Tatarusanu will surely take this opportunity to leave and having a national team regular up for grabs (his best years are yet to come) should be tempting enough for some decent clubs from abroad, even though we all agree that we’re not talking about a really good national team, in this case… Good keeper, experienced, tested at all levels, Tatarusanu will probably stay with Steaua until June, unless there will be some decent money on the table in January.
Right Back: Alexandru Matel
It was a difficult choice for this position, considering that Petrolul’s Jean Sony Alcenat is in a similar situation and the Haiti international is, by far, the best attacking right back in the league. Matel is younger, though, a regular in Romania’s senior team and has put behind an injury that halted his development for a while. He’s just as good at the back as he is when going forward and, although he’ll probably never reach a top level, has a tempting package to sell at a discounted price. He’ll need a good offer though, considering that Astra’s owner is reacher than Steaua’s and (still) a free man, pushing his club towards the first trophy…
Central defender: Felice Piccolo
Club: CFR Cluj
Not a fan of the Italian centre-back, but you know what you get with this guy: sound tactical knowledge, a good professional approach, no nonsense style of defending. If you want a bit of pace, some quality on the ball and more hunger to impress, you’d have to look elswhere.
Central defender: Dragos Grigore
A solution for Romania’s national team. Always Dinamo’s alternative for wearing the arm band. Never a central defender to put together a string of eye catching performances, but, in truth, he’ll rarely disappoint either. Reliable might be the right word to describe this quiet, honest defender, and I would have seen him too shy to move away for the Bucharest side. Luckily for him, Dinamo is refusing to pay tempting salaries under the new management, so anything at all that might come from abroad through his agent will look too good to turn down…
Left Back: Guilherme Sitya Haubert
We might be talking for the best left back in Liga 1 and – even though there’s an obvious lack of quality on this position – this guy should have no problems finding another club and a bigger salary. Can’t see Petrolul holding on to the small Brazilian who pushes forward at ease and brings quality upfront for 90 minutes, considering that they’ll be wasting their money on a player with no future, like Adrian Mutu, so the club that already got Guilherme’s CV (his agent has been busy, trust me) and has been impressed might find it easy to get a deal done.
It’s hard to believe that Steaua allowed this to happen, but there’s a big chance that the captain will admit, just like Tatarusanu, that it’s a rare occasion (probably the last) to move abroad to a decent club and on a better wage. Bourceanu looks passionate, dedicated, playing with his heart even against a third division club in the Romanian club, but I often had the impression that his leadership was a bit faked. His instructions and gestures looked good on camera, but watching his colleagues, I have to say I’ve rarely seen them impressed or inspired. Nevertheless, we are talking about an aggressive, hard working, no nonsense pitbull, who did improve at Steaua, but not that much to get the attention of a good, ambitious clubs from an important European league. He should have quite a number of offers, but is he really as confident as he tries to look? I’d put a dollar on him taking up Steaua’s generous offer to extend…
Defensive midfielder: Gabriel Giurgiu
Club: Otelul Galati
He had his chance to get more money and see what’s out there, beyond Liga 1′s borders, but for some reason Giurgiu returned quickly from Rubin Kazan. A regular for Otelul Galati, helping the club write history and win the league under Dorinel Munteanu’s command, Giurgiu is a decent option for a club looking for an experienced hard working midfielder, who can play box to box if asked, who can still play at his best for a couple of years.
Right winger: Laurentiu Iorga
Club: Otelul Galati
One of the players I enjoyed watching a few years ago, Iorga was quite often linked with Steaua, but Otelul kept asking for the moon. In truth, his development stalled and in my opinion he’s playing below his potential. Definitely needs to move away from the club he served since 2007. He’s quick, suited for a counter-attacking team and, with some guidance, should be able to chip in more than 5 goals a season in the right team and the right league…
When the Portuguese attacking midfielder scored a hattrick against Braga in the Champions League, CFR’s owner probably congratulated the management for this shrewd signing. Now, in theory, there should be a more tense atmosphere in Cluj, with the player able to move on a free transfer next summer. In theory… In truth, the player has some consistency problems and never managed to influence games that didn’t seem exciting enough and, when the few top games from Liga 1 came, he was just as bad as the team that seems unable to get back to winning ways…
Left winger: Lucian Sanmartean
Club: FC Vaslui
Oldest guy in the team, lacking hunger, but surely desperate to move away from Vaslui. He’s probably the only skipper in the world resented and criticized by the club’s owner almost on a weekly basis. Apart from all that, Sanmartean IS the best dribbler in Liga 1, a gifted winger who can break the lines and decide games, a player I would like to see playing against his current club. Unfortunately, Vaslui is no longer among the “elite”, so the former Panathinaikos player can only hope and look for an exotic, well-paid last stop in a career that could have been great, but ends up just average. Such a shame, really…
Striker: Thaer Bawab
Club: Gaz Metan Medias
Have to say that Liga 1 lacks quality strikers, so it’s hard to find a good one, especially on a free, but Bawab has something hard to find around here: the ability to take out his direct opponent using both pace and skill. He scored 10 goals in the previous season and rarely played in this one, scoring just once. Can play upfront alone or supporting the main striker and, could be a decent rotation player, but I can’t see a Romanian club – better than Gaz Metan – interested in his services…
Now that’s something, especially when two of the opponents are Lazio and Schalke 04. Although Rapid managed to win away in Israel, confirming that Razvan Lucescu knows how to approach the games in Europe, Vaslui was again the surprise package, not only because they almost won on “Olimpico”, but because they are still struggling to field a decent defense.
Cisse, Rocchi and Sculli were often frustrated by a back four that contained only two natural defenders, as Viorel Hizo was once again forced to improvise in front of a very young keeper. The Italians might not know it, but Ionut Balaur, the centre-back, is a 21 years old striker, with absolutely zero experience in Liga I, while the left flank was defended by Nemanja Milisavljevic, a serbian left winger who rarely used to track back when used in his natural position.
All credit must go to the experienced Hizo, who wasn’t bluffing when he announced that the team will try to play an open game and he was right to try an keep the ball away from the box, as Vaslui always struggled to contain Lazio when pegged back, even with a one man advantage. With Sanmartean able to dribble in a phone booth, the intelligent Wesley always dropping into space at the right time and Adailton kept on the pitch even when he couldn’t run anymore, for his ability to deliver killer balls, Vaslui might regret the lost points, but shouldn’t, if this inexperienced team in Europe learned something from a contest they had entered with no chances to survive and got so close to come out with the result of their lives.
A much more cautious approach was adopted by Steaua against Schalke, with Ronny Levy clearly going for a draw and rarely thinking to take advantage of the German’s unstable defense. The Bucharest side is obviously struggling to find a new identity and will need time to make the system work with so many new players, with Bourceanu vital to keep things tight at the back and the entire team compact. His impact has been huge and “Romania’s Gattuso” is the only certainty in Levy’s eleven, which has too many centre-backs, but no reliable right back, enough forwards, but not a natural goalscorer, hard working central midfielders with little vision and playmaking ability and not a single wide player able to make the difference. This team needs a lot of work to get going and I doubt the coach will have enough time to put together a puzzle that doesn’t lack quality pieces. The good thing is that there’s realism on the bench and th team is collecting points even in a difficult period.
Timisoara snatched a point on Sunday evening in the dying moments of the away game at Universitatea Craiova, thanks to Ianis Zicu, and it’s pretty clear who are the 13-14 players that will have the honor to fight with the Citizens, hoping to produce another European miracle.
Yesterday, it became clear that Vladimir Petrovic realized that his plans to build an offensive team need to be adjusted, that his eleven needs balance, otherwise it will be severely punished, just like it happened in the very dubious first half against MyPa, when his back four was so exposed that the hosts were 3-0 up after 45 minutes. The key to Timisoara’s spectacular return was Alexandru Bourceanu, a central midfielder nicknamed Gattuso, whose impressive work-rate is vital in covering the spaces, breaking up attacks and linking up the play. He was among the starters in the impressive 3-2 win against CFR Cluj, as well as in last evening’s game, and the Viola were punished only after a childish mistake from Srdjan Luchin. Universitatea struggled to create chances, while at the other end the 20.000 fans withnessed as much as four dangerous shots in the space of two minutes, in one of Timisoara’s raids forward. Ok, the “drawing” goal came very late and based on some hazard and the hosts’ lack of experience, but this was the fourth time in as many league games when Timisoara managed to come back from one or two goals down to earn a positive result! Read more…
GABRIEL MURESAN – CFR Cluj
- Dan Alexa – FC Timisoara
- Gabriel Giurgiu – Otelul Galati
- Sorin Paraschiv – Unirea Urziceni
- Costin Lazar – Rapid Bucharest
My view: Yes, Muresan deserves to be up there, but Alexa doesn’t! The holding role is/should be much more than just sitting in front of the back four and winning balls, such a limited player isn’t useful to a winning team anymore. And when you have one pure anchorman on the pitch, adding another one (Bourceanu) when playing at home should be classified as attempted murder on football, a crime that brought punishment on a decent person, but a coach that still needs to develop, like Ioan Ovidiu Sabau. Sorry, got a bit carried away with this :-)).
Back to our top: consistent season from Giurgiu, who also got a couple of important goals and was labelled by some as the best defensive midfielders in the league, but I cannot understand how a massive midfielder like Ousmane N’Doye could have missed the top five. Anyway, he’ll compensate this by getting the first place when we get to the nightclub performances section!
My choices: Already said enough about N’Doye (btw, the guy is the leader when it comes to taking out opponents!), let’s include here Ionut Neagu, who was playing until the winter for the bottom placed in the second division, CSM Ramnicu Sarat, and is another nice coup from Marius Stan and Dorinel Munteanu. Also, it was an excellent first season in Liga I for the Japanese Seto Takayuki, while Timisoara’s Bourceanu would have been higher in the standings if he would have played in his natural role, as he often had to drift wide on the left flank, in a very unconfortable position for this workaholic central midfielder.
Note: the top five is taken from Gazeta Sporturilor, a newspaper that uses the service of Digital Soccer Project. These results are based on a series of specific criteria for each position, include only players that have collected at least 1.200 minutes on the pitch in the past season and the only subjective part of the analysis consists in the average marks received by the newspaper’s writers.
- Brazilian anchorman Ricardo Vilana Gomes (28) refuses to return to Romania, although his club, Unirea Urziceni, resumed training for more than two weeks now. The player claims that he wasn’t paid according to his contract, while the club is threatening with a suspension until the end of the current deal. Romanian press speculates about a possible interest from FC Timisoara, but I highly doubt it, given that the Viola outfit has already two very good defensive midfielders, Dan Alexa and Alexandru Bourceanu, and the coach often struggles to keep both of them satisfied.
- Andrea Mandorlini is reportedly interested in signing Italian attacking midfielder Roberto De Zerbi (30), who played last season for Avellino, in Serie B, scoring 5 goals in 15 appearances. In spite of several names from Italy mentioned so far as transfer targets for CFR, Mandorlini’s only signing from Serie A is Romanian forward Nicola Dica, bought from Catania, via Iraklis.