Four rounds gone in Romania and a lot of clubs keep on working on their rosters. A sign of ambition, but also of some average work done during the summer, considering that all the moves presented below could have been done in the same conditions even a couple of months ago.
Steaua, who decided to release the once highly rated Florin Costea, bought Lukasz Szukala, a 28 years old central defender, who comes for a reported fee of 0.5 million Euros. The player was requested by Laurentiu Reghecampf (he was the one who brought him to Romania from Germany’s lower leagues back in 2010) and comes after two full seasons for Gloria Bistrita and Universitatea Cluj and two full… matches played for Petrolul.
The deal was supposed to be more complex, as Steaua requested Adrian Cristea as well, admitting to a mistake signaled a while ago: Reghecampf needs a number 10 in his ideal tactical setup and it was a mistake to allow Mihai Radut to move on loan to Pandurii. Radut who now has 3 goals in 3 matches played under the excellent coach Petre Grigoras. But that’s another story…
Petrolul not only resisted the temptation to sell Cristea (helped by some pressure quickly applied by the ambitious fans!), but also used some of the money received for Szukala to sign Geraldo Alves. A 32 years old central defender who was released by… Steaua this summer after two very good seasons and 54 appearances for the red and blue outfit. Another mistake made by the club’s management, heavily influenced by the vocal owner Gigi Becali, as the young couple Chiriches-Gardos lacks consistency and good backup (what a surprise!).
Petrolul makes a very good signing, in spite of the player’s age, considering the wolves’ ambition to challenge at least for the European places this season, and tomorrow there will be a hot game versus Rapid, who had a two weeks break and went on a mini training camp to solve some internal issues. The Bucharest side also signed a striker, Marius Bilasco, who was never a top scorer (12 goals for Unirea Urziceni in the title winning season 2009/2010) and comes after a terrible period, poor decisions getting him to clubs like Tianjin Teda or Energie Cottbus, where he rarely played. Bilasco is the type of useful centre-forward though and should provide good competition for Blaze Ilijoski, who featured in 6 games since his transfer from FC Brasov, scoring just once.
Rapid missed out on two targets though, as Dacian Varga and Costin Curelea will move from Sportul Studentesc to FC Vaslui. On loan once again, as Vasile Siman, the club’s owner, has a habit of requesting huge transfer fees for his players. Varga is a left winger who can also feature on the right and has an interesting story, playing twice on loan for Kuban Krasnodar (and not bad at all, I might add), yet he always had to return to the club that relegated now to the second division. Curelea is also considered one of the good Romanian strikers, yet none of the top clubs managed to come up with a good enough offer for Siman in the past three years. He’s now 28 and for the first time moves away from Sportul Studentesc, where he scored 77 goals in 242 matches played in the first & second league…
It’s suicidal! Which, in footballing terms, means it’s the safest path to the second division. Nobody would dare to build an all-Romanian team, with the lowest average age in the first division, before the start of the season and not move a muscle in the three months long winter break spent on a place that yells at you “you’re going down, you fool!”. Sportul Studentesc are doing exactly that – and, trust me, it’s not the first time I’ve seen it! – and in 2012 has three wins out of three, the last one on the ground of the (now former) league’s leaders, Dinamo. They’ve climbed a few places in the standings and have determined a few other teams look at the relegation battle from a different perspective.
The owner of this team is Vasile Siman, the guy you don’t want to call, if you want one of his players. He’ll slap a 1 million Euros price tag on the forehead of any 19 years old that only played a handful of first division games without blinking. Try to negotiate and he’ll leave you at the table, probably with check to cover all by yourself. So, it’s best to order something light. This strategy has allowed this owner – who rarely buys a player and covers sometimes the often unpaid wages by offering to the squad mobile phones, coats and pickles – to make a huge profit by selling for millions players like Gigel Bucur, Ionut Mazilu, Costin Lazar (all playing abroad now) or George Galamaz. He’s so difficult to discuss with that Dacian Varga could only go to play on loan at Kuban Krasnodar. Twice. Now, the winger who was a regular in a play-off side from the Russian first division is back at the struggling Romanian first division club. And not playing…
Yes, Sportul won 3 out of 3 in 2012 without two of their three stand-out players, Dacian Varga and Costin Curelea (the striker all the big Romanian clubs wanted this winter, but couldn’t afford). The third is Viorel Ferfelea, the fragile number 10 who captained the side against Dinamo, scoring twice in the first three matches of the year. Who are the others? Well, guys like Patriche, Stancu and Farmache are the most experienced in Liga I, after moving through different clubs before returning to Sportul (if I’m not mistaking, Stancu and Farmache were playing in the season when Sportul scared the shit out of the big clubs finishing fourth – a feat which caused so much upset that the club became the first ever to be denied a license for the following season, being relegated!). The others are either recruits from second or third division clubs (Lazar, who offers the assist for the 1st goal vs Dinamo and scores the 3rd, was considered too poor by Petrolul Ploiesti, the club that raised him) or products of a renown youth setup, which offers poor training conditions, but has the satisfaction of seeing its’ best youngsters immediately offered a chance to shine for the seniors.
The best example? Razvan Popa, who’s only 16 and had started football at Steaua Bucharest, was handed a debut on Sunday. He played less than a minute, but if you ask Siman, he’s worth at least half of million. It’s a crisis, he understands that clubs cannot pay the same crazy amounts as before, but you’d better act quickly, as you don’t want this kid to score his first goal in the top flight… ;-)
Although Rapid had won the game (1-0), Timisoara claimed that the Bucharest side had no right to use Dacian Varga and Tiberiu Balan, the players loaned from Sportul Studentesc after the transfer window had been closed. Rapid definitely tried to bend the laws in this case and the decision is fair in my opinion. And, yes, maybe it’s time for a title to be decided by such an intervention that affects the standings so late in the season, as we have to start at some point to obey the regulations and respect the decisions of those running the game.
With this call, Rapid will probably miss out even on Europa League football next season, which was very important for a financially struggling club, while Timisoara’s climbs into second place and gets a boost to its chances of winning the league. Unfortunately for the fantastic Viola fans, they’ll probably lose it again on the pitch…
- Central defender Cosmin Barcauan is close to a return home, after three and a half seasons spent in Greece, at PAOK and OFI, where he was sent on loan from Shakhtar Donetsk. Barcauan (31) started his Liga I career as a striker for Universitatea Craiova, but was moved in central defense and then transferred to Dinamo, the club that is hoping to sign him in the next few days, after the player passed today a medical exam.
- Named Best foreign player in Romania, Pablo Brandan (26) has won also a place in the ideal first eleven of the league, after half a season. The Argentinian left back is currently playing for reigning champions Unirea Urziceni and doesn’t hide his disappointment for missing out on a transfer to VFB Stuttgart. The German club apparently offered 1.100.000 1.400.000 EUR, but the Romanian club was expecting to land a deal in the region of 3.000.000 EUR.
- Dacian Varga (25), currently under contract with second division club Sportul Studentesc, has several club from the first division interested in his services. After Steaua Bucharest and FC Timisoara, Rapid Bucharest lined up in the race for his signature. Each club is trying different approaches to convince Vasile Siman, the owner of Sportul, to sell the player, after the left winger impressed in the Champions League group stage this season, playing on loan at Unirea Urziceni.
- Marius Constantin (25) finally agreed to extend his contract with Rapid, which was expiring at the end of the season and one of the most interesting targets for free transfers in the summer has become unavailable. The defender was a target for several Russian and German clubs, but apparently Dynamo Kyiv was at one point keen to sign the strong centre-back. Constantin’s new deal will expire in June 2013 and he got a raise from 120.000 EUR to 200.000 EUR per season.
- Colombian attacking midfielder Dayro Moreno (24) has publicly demanded to be allowed to return to Once Caldas, although the club cannot afford the 500.000 EUR transfer fee.
- Ronny Levy signed a contract with champions Unirea Urziceni. He will earn 20.000 EUR per month + bonuses, until June 2011. Levy inherits a strong team, which finished third in a tough Champions League group (played against Sevilla, VFB Stuttgart and Glasgow Rangers) and will continue to play in Europe this spring. Defending the title in the league is another objective still in reach, as Unirea has the same number of points (41) with CFR Cluj and Steaua. Only two players departed this winter, the wingers Dacian Varga and Tiberiu Balan, who were loaned from second division club Sportul Studentesc. Levy probably has been promised a transfer budget, although Urziceni was an expert (under Dan Petrescu and Mihai Stoica) in reviving the careers of players released or sold almost for nothing by smaller clubs.
- Steaua seems to have reached an agreement with Bulgarian striker Hristo Yovov (32), who should get 10.000 EUR / month until the summer, a substantial bonus (100.000 EUR according to http://www.gsp.ro) in case the club wins the title and the option to extend the current deal for one more year. The problem is that, so far, nobody from Steaua contacted Levski Sofia, but coach Mihai Stoichita will try to get the green light from the club during the weekend, when he’ll travel to Bulgaria.
- FC Timisoara will keep Pedro Manuel Taborda Moreira (31) until the end of the season, when his contract will expire. The club gave full (sometimes too much) credit to the very promising Costel Pantilimon (22) – on Arsenal’s shortlist – and also bought last summer Nemanja Supic (27), but Taborda impressed in the three appearances for the club this season (a solid display in Europa League against Dinamo Zagreb!) and, with Supic quite injury prone, will be kept as backup. Of course, the club will have to offer/promise something to a player who has every reason to look for another club right now.
- Otelul Galati released Gjorgji Mojsov (24), a central midfielder bought last summer from Rabotnicki. Played in seven games this season, three times as a starter. Otelul also terminated the loan of Arthur Patras, who came from Timisoara and is a regular for Moldova U21. This way, the club for Galati makes room in the first eleven for the promising Razvan Ochirosii, recently transferred (and partially bought) from Steaua, as part of the Zhivko Zhelev deal.