In recent times, only George Florescu was better ranked in the list of unpopular figures in the mediocre national team that failed to qualify for a final tournament since 1998. What few people know is that these two had a similar start of their professional career, Florescu and Cocis leaving Universitatea Cluj, when they were 17, in a controversial double transfer to Sheriff Tiraspol, and playing afterwards in Ukraine and Russia.
If Florescu, who was a regular starter under Razvan Lucescu, failed to convince the current coach, Victor Piturca, during the friendly against Austria, played last June, Cocis returns to the team even if he was left out for the double against Estonia and Andorra, for the relief of the entire country. He featured last time in August, against Slovenia, but now he will not only get back in the fold, but seems to have strong credentials for earning a spot in the starting eleven. Once again, negative comments surfaced, but they’re unlikely to make Piturca change his mind. Quite on the contrary, considering the man’s stubbornness.
The public’s opinion, fueled by several coaches who analyzed the 29 years old’s game, is that Cocis is the sort of midfielder who can play everywhere, but won’t impress anywhere. ‘Tactical discipline and a good engine have made him invaluable in recent times though, when whoever coached Romania thought first to block the opposition’s game rather than try to create play. He has collected 43 caps and the fact that he scored only 2 goals only proves that he usually adds a defensive intent to the attacking positions he covers.
He’s expected to do the same in Istanbul, on Friday, when Piturca thinks to deploy him behind the lone striker in a 4-2-3-1, but mainly to frustrate the Turkish build-up rather than support either Marica or Stancu, with the latter favored to start ahead of the Schalke backup striker, considering the excellent start of season he’s enjoying at Orduspor.
Romania will be playing hoping for a draw and the general feeling is that players like Cocis will never allow us to hope for more. The paradox is that we’ve always had gifted players and lacked the disciplined, hard-working ones, and my impression is that we might be wrong pointing the finger at Cocis, who is – in the end – admirable in his determination to please the coaches who trust him. Our real problem isn’t his presence in the team, but the absence of a quality number 10 and the coaches’ inability to adjust their tactical setup to the type of players they could and can count on. If things go bad in Istanbul, Cocis will be the perfect scapegoat once again and his former mate, Florescu, can start warming-up…
Torje, Stancu, Deac, Ionita. Four young players who have moved abroad in exchange of some hefty transfer fees, but have failed to deliver. Is it only their fault?
When Manchester City decided to sign Costel Pantilimon on a permanent deal, the current leaders of the Premier League have only confirmed that the best way to approach a transfer that involves a Romanian player is by a) doing some proper scouting and b) go for a loan with a buying option. I’ll explain with the case of the four names mentioned above:
Gabriel Torje (Udinese)
The hype around him was incredible and not even a month had gone by since his Serie A debut and the Romanian press was full of rumors speaking about interest from Arsenal and, why not?, Barcelona. We were talking after all about „Romania’s Messi”. Everyone overlooked the fact that Torje had to play regularly for 4 consecutive seasons in Liga I to convince a foreign club come up with the millions, everybody was talking about the leagues ability to still deliver top young players, although, at 21, over 90% of the Romanian players have less than a full season of games under their belt. And they’re both too old and lacking enough top flight experience to attract the sort of bids the unrealistic owners expect.
Indeed, Torje had a promising start in Italy, with three assists in his first three games, but the fact is: he never lasted for 90 minutes on the pitch; he didn’t score a single goal; he slowly lost contact with the first eleven and, lately, with the team, playing his last game on the 18th of December.
Still, although I expect Arsenal and Barcelona to have called back to base their scouts :-), it’s way too early to call him a flop. Apart from the struggle such a small sized player raised in Romania would face in order to adjust to the Italian style, Torje also pays the price for being part of a team that uses the worst possible tactical setup as far as he’s concerned. He’s a natural winger who cannot play on the right side of a midfield of five, with no fullback behind to provide cover. He’s also not at all comfortable upfront and it’s not really a surprise to see a wide player struggling in the middle, in front of compact and expert defensive lines. If Guidolin had gambled on Torje’s ability to adjust, it’s an expensive and losing bet. Which leads me to the second case.
Ciprian Deac (Schalke 04)
I wasn’t surprised to see Deac heading for the Bundesliga and was actually convinced that he would deliver. Until I’ve read Felix Magath’s statement: „Deac will be our number 10, our playmaker.” Another natural left winger, this time gifted with less technique and flair than Torje, but definitely very well prepared physically and counting on a very good left foot, was going to struggle. Although the training sessions had convinced him that even one of the fittest players in Liga I will need time to adjust to the extremely exciting German league, he also realized that the tactical challenge was too big. After 90 minutes of Bundesliga football and a lot more days of sharing the dressing room with the legendary Raul, Deac had to return to Romania to regain his match fitness and his confidence. With 5 goals and 4 assists in 17 matches for Rapid, playing as a wide forward in a 4-3-3, he looks again in good shape, but will probably never play for Schalke again. A case of poor scouting? Or bad judgement from Magath? Because Deac wasn’t like Ionita, my next example.
Alexandru Ionita (FC Koln)
After one season in Liga I and 10 goals in the top flight, Ionita was moving to 1.Bundesliga in exchange of more than 2 million Euros. The coach was Zvonimir Soldo and he was so keen on the striker that Ionita collected 105 minutes for FC Koln. In 1 and a half seasons. Okay, Soldo was sacked in the meantime, but now the striker had to hope that he’ll be allowed to take the same route that saw an impressive number of Romanian players return home with more money in their bank accounts, less memorable game. Actually, with the last official game difficult to be remembered. Poor scouting, terrible decision to pay such a fee upfront on a striker with no Liga 1 experience by the age of 21, who had a promising first season in the top flight. Unlike Deac, who minded his business and tried hard in training to earn chances to play, Ionita was clever enough to “win over” the fans by saying their girlfriends, sisters or wives aren’t that pretty. After that he probably failed to score at all while in Germany, not just in the eight Bundesliga appearances as a sub.
Bogdan Stancu (Galatasaray)
Bought by Galatasaray when Gheorghe Hagi embarked on another adventure as a coach, this was a deal that I never bought as real, based on footballing matters. When a player rated at not more than 3 million Euros goes in January for double that sum, it’s something that will eventually affect the guy everyone will be looking at on the pitch. After 13 goals for Steaua in Liga I (again, we’re talking about the first solid season of his career!), the 23 years old added just 2 in 14 matches in the Turkish first division, playing mostly as a left winger (totally out of position) in a troubled Galatasaray’s squad that was going to quickly offload their legendary former player and leave Stancu’s future in limbo. Impossible to get back in Liga I so quickly and with that wage – the player also stated his ambition to succeed abroad -, he nailed a good move with the loan to Orduspor. He’s playing mainly as the only striker (again, not his best role, but close enough) and the results are encouraging, although some Turkish followers of my Twitter account say he’s not good enough for Galatasaray, the 8 goals in 24 matches for a mediocre team prove that he’s quality. Not 6 million Euros quality, but as Romanians say, a fool isn’t the one who asks for the money, but the one who accepts to pay.Follow @rbaicu
incredible amusing story was brought to my attention this morning via Twitter (you can find me there as rbaicu!) by a friend, who says that there’s a lot of talk in Turkey on a topic launched by a press agency. Apparently, Stancu had been offered on loan last summer, in exchange of 300.000 Euros, to a second division club.
Now, I’ve tried to Google-translate it, but that didn’t help much, so I can’t say who were the sources and how was the “story” created. What I can say is that it’s rubbish, as we’re talking about one of the hottest prospects in Romanian football, who was a key player at Steaua at that point, with a good record, no conflicts with the board or the staff & a decent salary. Why would Steaua let him go? His wage wasn’t a problem, the 300 k wouldn’t have made a difference, the destination had no chance to improve the player’s market value (Steaua was going to play in Europe in autumn) and didn’t involve a very tempting buying clause, at the end of the loan spell.
Does the article imply that Galatasaray paid too much for Stancu? Probably. Is this a topic that could hurt Hagi? Probably – it will happen every time a signing from Romania will play a poor game. The problem is that this story lacks both timing (Stancu plays well and scores goals) and that minimum amount of truth or credibility. Not that it’s my problem, though, it’s something that the Turkish fans are served probably very often. It just explains to me (and others?) why Hagi hits back at the media every once in a while, like he did in a press conference from January, when I was surprised with his frustration and was expecting to hear a different tone…
He scored 15 of Steaua’s 34 goals of the season, in all competitions. He’s the best scorer in Liga I, with 12 goals, scoring twice as much as he did in the entire previous campaign. Just for the record, last year’s most efficient striker, Andrei Crristea, netted just 16 goals to claim the golden boot award and miss transfers to high profile clubs like… Karslruhe. Let’s not go there, though, and stick to the 23 years old who has a number of high profile clubs following him, in spite of an asking price that should have reduced the interest in him, yet that strategy failed.
CFR’s Lacina Traore has already been linked with more teams than the number of goals he’ll manage to score before he leaves the club that bought him for 40.000 Euros and won’t even discuss a deal if the negotiations start at 4 million Euros. Steaua’s Bogdan Stancu was a more expensive buy back in 2008, but somehow dribbled his way through Becali’s habit of announcing transfer fees that would make the masses marvel and the potential buyers laugh in disbelief. He’s now cheaper than Traore, less demanded than the Ivorian, but definitely the other option, if you’re looking for a striker with potential and insisting to buy from a strange market, like Romania’s. Or should this be quite the other way around?
- Victoria Branesti – FC Brasov 1-1 (Olariu 63 pen / Cristescu 71)
A fifth penalty in twelve rounds (not a bad ratio, but there’s no surprise, as the refs did help this team achieve promotion!) allowed Victoria take a lead against another struggling team, but Brasov showed strength and came back to claim a very important point in what promises to be a long relegation battle. Victoria remains an interesting team, pretty well organized, while Brasov deserves credit for every positive result, given the quality of the roster availble, after the incredible exodus that took place during the summer. Read more…
- Unirea Urziceni – Gaz Metan Medias 0-1 (Todea 90)
Interesting tactical battle between two defensive squads, built to counter, but as I was expecting, Unirea starts to lose all the points, with their focus on defending the initial draw in every game, no matter the opponent’s name. All credit must go to Gaz Metan’s excellent coach Cristi Pustai (I know, I’m repeating myself), who pushed for the win with all his changes and the instructions for a positive and brave approach. The discrete performance from the Brazilian Eric, who’s refusing to extend his deal and, sooner or later, he’ll refuse to play at the same level, which would be a shame, was compensated by another solid performance from the two central midfielders, Hoban and Todea, with the captain bringing the third away win of the season for a really tough team to beat.
- Rapid – Astra Ploiesti 3-0 (Cassio 34, 36, Spadacio 42)
The break didn’t affect the most solid and spectacular team in the league and Rapid dominated with authority against a difficult opponent, who lost its first match under Tibor Selymes. Cassio Vargas added his third brace of the season, but must share an eventual bonus with his team-mates, having the chance to play in a team that brings the ball in the box with pace, skill and flair, through the excellent work of the central pair Spadacio – used deeper than usual – and Lazar, as well as the quality service provided by the wide men. Read more…