Just one point behind Dinamo, CFR has failed to impress me in the first half of the season, not to mention their first game of the year, won 1-0 versus FCM Targu Mures. Still, what will happen if this teams finally clicks? The manager Jorge Costa has changed from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 to make better use of the available players, but there are question marks regarding their back four, especially on the flanks, as well as their attack. The schedule could favor them though, as they’ll play away only against FC Vaslui and Dinamo, but the consecutive matches between rounds 23 and 25 (vs Otelul, Vaslui and Rapid) should find them in top shape…
Two Brazilians have been released and Costa will have problems replacing at least one of them. If Pantelis Kapetanos, once a reliable goalscorer for Steaua, has already netted a winner vs Targu Mures, playing instead of Weldon (7 goals in the 1st half of the season), a certain Nicolas Godmeche has been signed to replace Renan Garcia, who now plays for Sampdoria.
Last season: 1st
Squad quality: Average
Key player: Gabriel Paraschiv
Hot prospect: Laurentiu Bus
Strengths: Teamwork / Work ethic
Weaknesses: Lack of firepower / The presence in the Champions League’s group stage
The champions have a slim chance to win another title. Although the Supercup (1-0 against Steaua) showed that nothing changed with Dorinel Munteanu’s team in terms of players, tactics and hunger for success, the Champions League will surely affect their concentration in Liga I and will leave its mark on a reduced roster. Plus, the bigger clubs will make sure that Otelul will not pull another stunt like they did last season, when their title chances were rated at 67/1 by the bookies.
Keep an eye on Laurentiu Bus, a small attacking midfielder who already decided the Supercup with a very nice goal, another one of Marius Stan’s top signings from the second division, but expect Otelul to suffer when they’ll be missing the impressive veteran Gabriel Paraschiv.
It might not be a winning season for Otelul, but it will surely be one to remember!
Last season: 3rd
Squad quality: Good
Key player: Wesley
Hot prospect: Razvan Neagu
Strengths: Squad cohesion / Quality attackers / Hunger for success
Weaknesses: No winning pedigree
Since Adrian Porumboiu took over the club, FC Vaslui finished every season in a higher position and I have to say that the tradition has every chance to be respected. The club has been banned from signing new players and this brought a stability that should help them not just in Europe, but also in the first part of the season, when they’ll be matched only by Otelul and Dinamo in terms of team cohesion. If something goes wrong, Vaslui could fix it anyway, as the wealthy owner will have a chance to prove himself between the 10th (when the transfer ban will end) and the 20th (last day of summer mercato in Romania) of September.
The team relies on an excellent attacking trio formed by Wesley, Adailton and Lucian Sanmartean, but Romanian youngster Razvan Neagu, who had an off-year in his development, impressed in pre-season and might add something upfront.
Last season: 4th
Squad quality: Very good
Key player: Danut Coman
Hot prospect: Sabrin Sburlea
Strengths: Top competition within the team / Crowd support at home
Weaknesses: Inconsistent form when playing away / Completely reshaped midfield
Razvan Lucescu returns at club level, after an experience with the national team that should serve him well. Last time he was in charge, Rapid recorded the best ever performance in Europe, but now the club will give it all for a title that, if it has a chance to return to Bucharest, than this is the best equipped club of the “big guns”.
Rapid lost some quality players like Costin Lazar, Juliano Spadacio and Marius Constantin, but they’ve made good moves on the market, adding the likes of Alexa, Apostol and Deac, all national team players, without spending much. They might need some time to gel, but they’ll be very difficult to break down, will remain a force at home and, with more consistency, they could be going all the way.
Last season: 5th
Squad quality: Good
Key player: Ciprian Tatarusanu
Hot prospect: Raul Rusescu
Strengths: Top defense / Club stature
Weaknesses: Huge pressure / Lack of support at home
It was all looking good for Steaua, after the arrival of Ronny Levy, but the Supercup showed exactly the same team that disappointed last season. Well organized at the back, but lacking creative midfielders and prolific forwards, this club has big chances to disappoint once again, especially after the decision to abandon the stadium that has recorded basically every success achieved by the red and blue outfit.
Ciprian Tatarusanu might play his last season for Steaua, as he should move abroad soon enough, and I’ve decided to “gamble” on Rusescu (yet another transfer from the dead and buried Unirea Urziceni), as I consider Florin Gardos more of a certainty, after his excellent first season in Liga I.
Last season: 6th
Squad quality: Good
Key player: Gabriel Torje
Hot prospect: Cristian Balgradean
Strengths: Top quality in the last third
Weaknesses: Lack of support at home / Inexperienced coach / Poor teamwork
The club lost contact with the fans, had a summer in which Liviu Ciobotariu (finally confirmed as head coach) looked like he was preparing the team for another coach and will start a season without the same hunger for success. There are problems in the board and the players often look to be playing for personal success only, hoping for moves away that obvious talents like Gabriel Torje or Marius Alexe are yet to complete.
In spite of its strike force, Dinamo should struggle with the same fragile defense and a very thin midfield line that will be lacking steel and ability to protect the unreliable back four.
Last season: 10th
Squad quality: Good
Key player: Ricardo Cadu
Hot prospect: Sergiu Bus
Strengths: Ambition to succeed again / Quality midfield
Weaknesses: Lack of cohesion
CFR had a terrible season, but finally looks once again eager to fight for the league. They have in Jorge Costa an ambitious coach and the sort of person that can dominate a dressing room disrupted in the past couple of season by the Portuguese legion. It’s still there and with a number of new faces, but the key is to get team captain Cadu in the right state of mind.
CFR doesn’t look at all short in terms of quality and quantity, but the team might need a couple of months, if not more, to gel and become a force. Of course, if the club made the right moves on the transfer market…
P.S. You should also check this interview, to have a better overview of the league, ahead of the new season.
I’ve said it in the summer, when Nuno Claro was the Supercup hero: CFR needs to buy a reliable keeper. A certain Danut Coman was available on a free transfer back then, the sort of experienced goalie with a strong enough personality to step in and deliver for any Liga I club, yet the champions hoped that Stancioiu will not only keep the Portuguese goalie on his toes, but also do a good job when called upon. It should be no surprise to see that this strategy failed, with the two players simply too inconsistent to secure the goal and their mistakes have been so visible that the board has finally come to terms with this reality. Don’t think that they’ve taken the right calls, though! The capture of Mihai Minca – who, for the record, was Coman’s reserve last season – can be considered a decent signing, but also a bet. The 26 years old had a spell at Rapid a couple of years ago and failed to cope with the pressure, something that will be seriously tested in Cluj, where Minca, if he is to deliver in at least one of the next five years, should finally live up to the praise received in 2005 from a certain Walter Zenga…
Right now, he’s just a third keeper who can only hope that those still ahead of him in the pecking order, Nuno Claro and Stancioiu, will be either sold or released in the near future, in order to find some playing time. The imminent signing of a certain Remo Amadio (unknown 23 years old Italian keeper, who only played in the lower leagues!) on a free transfer certainly points in that direction. One that shouldn’t please CFR’s fans, though, given the questionable quality of the selected replacements, with a poor to nonexistent background and absolutely no guarantees that they’ll end up saving some shots in the coming months, not only the club’s transfer budget from January…
“We appologize for Sorin Cartu’s gesture to UEFA, to FC Basel, to our fans and everyone else who love football and sports, in general”. In spite of the formal backing of the coach which took place earlier today, as club president Iuliu Muresan tried to assure everybody that Cartu will lead the team in the next league match, the expected announcement came tonight and Cartu leaves after just a couple of unimpressive months in charge.
He took over just before the first game versus FC Basel and now leaves after the second encounter with the Swiss side, forced by his inability to control himself and an incredible gesture, which counted more than his struggles to make the team look like a title contenter in Liga I and secure a place in Europa League. This incident doesn’t come as a surprise though, as the coach has a history of similar events, once trying to break the dugout’s glass with his head, when sitting on Dacia Mioveni’s bench, and, only days before the Basel episode, chasing an assistant referee down the tunnel, to punish him for some blatant mistakes which affected his team.
A normal decision by CFR, who was tempted to wait until the winter break, but realized that the club’s image is more important than a couple of poor matches in Liga I and it’s going to be very interesting to see who gets the job, with Laszlo Boloni available…
That is THE question, after Traore decided to go for personal glory on the Olimpico, refusing to offer Culio the chance to score his third game against AS Roma, after the wonderful brace from two years ago, and maybe denying his team the chance to get another great result in the Champions League.
Arsenal, Galatasaray, Hamburg, Udinese, Napoli, Liverpool. All these clubs have been linked with „CFR’s jewel”, as the club’s president likes to speak of Lacina Traore, the big forward who offered last night, against AS Roma, the kind of display that justifies both an affirmative and a negative answer to the above question. At 0-0, he had enough luck to evade Nicolas Burdisso, but, instead of offering an assist to Juan Culio, in a situation that demanded such a decision, chose to take a shot at goal, hitting the crossbar. He would go on to offer a solid display, tormenting Roma’s defenders with his rare combination of pace, strength and skill, hitting the bar once more with a powerful left footed effort from just outside the box and getting deserved praise from Claudio Ranieri, yet I feel we should get back to that key moment that defines a 20 years old who’s at a turning point in his career.
“I am not mad at Traore. A forward needs to be selfish!” – Arpad Paszkany, CFR’s owner
“I’ve already told my players that the guy who will go for the shot instead of a pass, in a similar play to Traore’s, can kiss his salary good-bye for the following three months” - Victor Piturca, former national team coach, now at Universitatea Craiova
Ok, some agree that forwards need to get their share of shot at/on goal (Cristiano Ronaldo took 58 shots at goal so far, scoring just twice in La Liga!) and there are top professionals who’d like to remind everyone that football is a team’s sport. So, maybe it’s right to work a bit on the question at hand and come up with another one: “How selfish can one football player be?”. Read more…
“I’ll never forget that match, but I am ready to produce another similar performance. I think we could qualify from this group!” These are the words of the Argentinian Juan Emmanuel Culio, the man who stunned Olimpico two years ago with a winning brace that probably delighted the bookmakers and offered CFR the right to dream in a group that also featured the mighty Chelsea and Laurent Blanc’s Bordeaux. Should the world think twice before writing off the Romanian champions, ahead of Tuesday’s clash? Not really.
Even though Culio looks in decent shape, you can’t say the same about a team that will probably feature just four of the “heroes” that produced one of Champions League’s biggest surprises. Stancioiu should start in goal, the experienced Panin will play at right back, while team-captain Cadu will try to keep things tight at the back, an impossible mission looking at CFR’s recent games, including the 2-1 home win against FC Basel.
Leaving aside Sorin Cartu’s problems in finding a winning formula, the team suffered another huge blow on Friday, in the hot derby against Universitatea, losing the valuable Gabriel Muresan, the anchorman, a vital player in defense, a hard tackler in midfield and a good organizer when CFR’s in possession. With the Portuguese Dani recently sold, Cartu finds himself in a surprising position, knowing the number and the quality of players available in theory. He uses a centre-back as a left back, but the winning gamble on the massive Ionut Rada from the first match might soon be regretted, will have to shuffle his cards in midfield, moving Emil Dica and Emmanuel Culio from the flanks (where they played on Friday) into the middle, as the Argentinian Sixto Peralta has not been registered for this competition, which also happened to the often decisive striker Cristi Bud. Read more…
His decision to leave Unirea Urziceni, after he managed to break Romania’s record of points collected by a club in the Champions League’s groups stage and ahead of a challenging double with Liverpool, was considered at least strange. And certainly money-orientated, as Kuban Krasnodar was ready to spend millions on wages and transfers, in its attempt to achieve promotion in Russia’s first division. My bet is that Petrescu knew what was going to happen to Unirea, felt disappointed by the Ferderation’s choice to appoint Razvan Lucescu in charge and would have have had a difficult time topping what he achieved with a small club, if he was to take over another Romanian team.
Well, it’s bragging time on this blog, as Mandorlini becomes the second coach to have qualified CFR Cluj for the Champions League group stage and won’t get the chance to sit on the bench for at least one match. It happened to Ioan Andone and I expected this to happen to the Italian back in May (yes, I’m that good!), even though CFR was heading for a double they eventually snatched.
Mandorlini went into the game against Rapid having the backing of the board, but came out of it without points and with the team leaving the same impression: struggling to adjust to yet another tactical setup – a 4-1-4-1 this time -, lacking cohesion, determination and courage, sitting back and hoping that one of the players will create something out of the blue. Not the approach you’d want to see at the champion club, the club that had failed to send a single shot on goal against Universitatea Craiova, the club that felt humiliation against the newly promoted Sportul Studentesc. Read more…
Andrea Mandorlini (CFR Cluj), Lopez Caro (FC Vaslui), Vladimir Petrovic (FC Timisoara). Big names, high wages, scary anti-sacking clauses. What’s to be done once they get their teams into deep trouble? Well, Timisoara’s Marian Iancu always liked to look tough in the media, CFR’s Arpad Paszkany plays the old “Backing the coach” trick and looks very supportive (until he finds a replacement), while FC Vaslui’s Adrian Porumboiu has no other option than to beg the former Real Madrid to leave the team without asking for more than a couple of hundred thousand Euros. Not a good moment to be in charge of a club, right?
Mandorlini, saved by last season’s trophies. But not for long…
CFR won the league and the Romanian Cup with him on the bench, but the team rarely offered convincing displays, struggling to adjust to a 4-3-3 that looked good on paper, but poor on the pitch. With the whole summer ahead of him and the chance to create a roster according to his plans, Mandorlini failed once again to impose his ideas. Important changes took place in the team, but CFR kept on switching between a 4-3-3 and a 4-3-1-2, in the first rounds that left the impression that Mandorlini needed a few more friendly matches, in order to make the team click. Six rounds gone and the champions are in mid-table, with the humiliating 0-3 defeat suffered against a newly promoted, Sportul Studentesc, still hurting a lot of egos in Cluj. Read more…
Wanted by pretty much all the big clubs from Liga I, Ioan Hora was presented today by CFR Cluj, as the latest addition of the Romanian champions. The winger – who can play on both flanks, as well as a second forward – had a very good season for Gloria Bistrita and was requested by Andone to Dinamo, with Rapid also hoping to get his signature, especially with his former coach, Marius Sumudica, ready to join the club this summer.
The 21 years old had been signed by Gloria Bistrita from UTA, after a promising first season in Liga I when he was only 18, and makes another important step in his career at an excellent age and a very good moment, having enough experience in the top flight (88 appearances and 8 goals) and looking prepared to take his game to another level.
Hora signed a five years long deal and CFR Cluj paid around 350.000 600.000 Euros for his services. Knowing Jean Padureanu’s experience, I predict that a couple of players from CFR will go on loan to Gloria next season, as part of the same deal ;-).