Three central defenders have signed for the Bucharest clubs, but every single transfer has a rather debatable reasoning:
Ersin Mehmedovic to Dinamo – the Red Dogs have had such a poor defensive record in the first half of the season that any addition would seem good enough. Moti, who was once considered Serie A material, has been out of form for more than a year, but Garat, Grigore and Scarlatache were so poor or inconsistent that he never lost the first spot in the pecking order of a former defender, Ioan Andone, who is now in charge of the team. Signing the towering Serbian centre-back seems, from this point of view, justified, but the 29 years old, who comes after two great years and a miserable half of year with Unirea Urziceni, will only provide backup to the first choice pair: (the newly and contested international) Dragos Grigore – Cosmin Moti. So, why not promote a young(er) lad, considering that Dinamo’s most realistic chance to earn a place in Europe remains the Romanian Cup? It’s even harder to explain it, as we were experiencing the rejuvenation of the pack, in all the other areas…
Valentin Iliev to Steaua – The Bulgarian has played a solid first half of season in Romania, for Universitatea Craiova, and moves to Bucharest for not-such-a-free transfer, as he gets a hefty 250.000 Euros bonus on the spot, a trick to make him look like he’s not earning than the rest of the squad, with his 10.000 Euros/month deal that stretches until June 2012. In truth, Steaua’s chiefs are only fooling themselves. They’re dribbling their own decision to cut down wages, which forced good players like Kapetanos or Angelov away from the club, and preparing to replace a high earner like Geraldo with another one, of the same age, but, in my opinion, not in quite the same class. Not to mention that, at the moment, Steaua’s options for the role were probably the best in the league, with the experienced Galamaz and Geraldo plus the new sensation, Gardos. And should I say that the club’s biggest problems are at the other end, with Bilasco, Surdu, Burdujan and Dica yet to click and offer some guarantees that they’ll be able to provide the much needed goals for an improbable title challenge?
Pavel Vidanov to Rapid– another Bulgarian, another solid defense, but at least this signing makes some sense! Vidanov is 22 and, as a senior international (4 caps for Bulgaria), can be considered a bargain at a price way under half of million Euros. In fact, it could turn out to be an excellent deal, although I expect him not to be rushed into the team, where he’ll find quicker some space on the right side, rather than in the centre, where Marcos Antonio and Marius Constantin have done great in the first half of season, plus worked together the entire winter break.
The return of Dinu Gheorghe as club president offered Rapid the opportunity to buy the best players from his former club, who had only missed out on a place in Europe in the previous season. Further more, the new executive guy went over the transfer and wage budgets, with some free signings and expensive deals (Cassio Vargas was bought for 700.000 Euros from Portugal), trying to ensure that the coach has every position doubled and there will be a fierce competition for a place in the first eleven. It was the kind of effort that every coach and passionate fan would like to see, yet the fourth spot occupied at this point by Rapid shows that signing twelve new players in the summer cannot guarantee instant results.
Name: Marcos Antonio
Position: Central defender
Games/goals this season: 18/1
Recommended by Rapid’s former striker, Daniel Niculae, now at AS Monaco, the Brazilian centre-back was signed on a free transfer and has been a rock at the back. Impressive physical strength, focused, he’s been outstanding so far and doesn’t really look like someone who stayed away from the game a year ago, when he was busy winning the fight with cancer. With offers coming in already, from Russia and Greece, he could turn out to be an excellent deal from all points of view.
Name: Cassio Vargas Barbosa
Games/goals this season: 16/7
Before you call me crazy, let me help you take a look at the good stats from above: he scored in just 4 games, was decisive in only two of them (the brace that decided the derby against CFR Cluj and earned a point against Pandurii), never scored away from home, not to mention that most of his goals were from close range. So, it was a decent return from a striker who could easily double this tally by the end of the season, yet I feel he could have been a lot more influential, which is usually expected from an expensive buy. His total lack of efficiency away from the home ground – where he just has to wait for one of the many quality box that reach the penalty area – can be seen in the standings and it’s something he and the coach must address during this winter break.
Rapid cannot afford any important operation during the winter, when they’ll probably try to get some cash, as I don’t see the club determined to go all out for the title – a “strategy” used in recent times by a lot of clubs, which only lead to inflation on the market, absurd wages to mediocre players, all in the name of a possible chance to get all the money back after a shameful presence in the Champions League group stage. The pressure is on the board, who must: choose between the two top goalies, Bornescu and Coman; get as much money possible on players in demand, like Herea or Marcos Antonio; either cut loose the top players that will enter the last six months of their deals or give up on high earning reserve players and come up with convincing proposals.
They have been the best foreign players in 2010 and they’re either looking to move in search of a new challenge & more money or have attracted too much interest from the bigger teams in Liga I to finish the season at their current clubs.
1. Wesley Lopes da Silva
- Club: FC Vaslui
- Position: Forward
- Age: 30
- Games/goals this season: 18/6
He’s pushing for the league title with FC Vaslui, yet he wants to move away this winter. Again. Last time he did that, club owner Adrian Porumboiu applied the “star treatment”, making the Brazilian the team’s captain, in spite of an attitude he used to punish severely (Carlos Costly is probably still regretting for trying to do things “the hard way”). This time, I doubt there’s something that can be done, as the excellent attacking man (who scored six goals even if he had to play as a central midfielder, in a 4-2-3-1!) will be entering the last six months of a 300.000 Euros/season deal, but he’s wrong if he thinks that this in enough to ease his way out of Vaslui, even if clubs like Steaua and especially CFR Cluj have small chances to finish the season above Porumboiu’s team.
2. Eric de Oliveira
- Club: Gaz Metan Medias
- Position: Attacking Midfielder
- Age: 25
- Games/goals this season: 18/9
Add 7 assists to the 9 goals scored this season and you’ll get the picture: he’s been in hot form since the start of the season and cannot continue under Pustai’s command, although he’ll have a hard time finding a finer coach in Liga I and a similar group of players&friends. He has to try, though, to prove himself in a more challenging environment, as he’s got the age, the experience and the quality to make it at a higher level and he’ll move this winter, in spite of all the problems Gaz Metan have been trying to create, since they’ve realized that they could lose their star player for nothing. His contract with the Romanian club will expire in June 2011, in spite of recent reports spread through papers too lazy to check the information handed to them by Gaz Metan’s board.
3. Aluisio Chaves Ribeiro Moraes Junior
- Club: Gloria Bistrita
- Age: 23
- Position: Forward
- Games/goals this season: 15/8
He’s at the end of an excellent first year and he should move now if he wants to take advantage of the inspired decision to come to Romania, to such a small club and pressure-free environment, like Gloria Bistrita. His brother’s recent release has reduced close to zero the reasons to continue at the club, but the question is who is going to satisfy the old fox Jean Padureanu. He’ll want cash&players, plus a little help to have a safe season, out of a deal that should not go through for less than a million Euros, in spite of visible and laughable efforts from the Becali brothers to decrease the player’s market value through some repeated comments in the media. Ribeiro Moraes is one of the few complete attackers this league has seen in recent times, a skilful creator and finisher, a free kick specialist, the kind of 2 in 1 forward that could help any team that misses both a playmaker and a striker.
Garat should be happy to move as far away from Dinamo as possible. He should forget the promising start of the season. The deserved praise for some promising performances and the beginning of a solid partnership with Cosmin Moti, the centre-back who may have returned from Seria A two years ago, but failed to return to form. The scoring ability discovered only after his move to Liga I. He will keep in mind though that, if you’re willing to make a career in Romania, there are a few guys out there who control everything, even if they’re not officially involved in the game anymore. One of them is former FIFA agent Ioan Becali, who once criticized the Argentinian centre-back more for the fact that he signed with Dinamo without going through him rather than for the quality of his performances. Garat replied by asking “Giovani” to keep quiet and stop talking about him and may have laughed in disbelief when he received a text message saying that he’ll never get to play for Dinamo again.
Today, the Red Dogs announce that they have released Juan Pablo Garat, considering that he failed to adjust to Liga I due to several medical problems, after 13 matches for the club and 2 goals. Of course, the decision has nothing to do with Becali’s threat. Garat did get to play two more games for Dinamo, after that episode. 15 minutes in the 11th round and 10 more minutes in the 16th round.
Timisoara moved as quickly as Tosaint Rickets had gone past its defense, when the Viola met MyPa, at the beginning of the season, and secured his signature at a moment when all the other Liga I clubs “work” in the press, negotiating all sorts of deals and swaps for unrealistic prices.
The Canadian forward gets the nicest sign of appreciation from a club he could have hurried out of the European competitions in August, as he scored three goals in the two encouters that finished 5-4 on aggregate for FC Timisoara. Ricketts has left such a good impression that his new club ignorred his rather poor scoring record from Finland – 9 goals in the past two seasons – and offered him a three years long deal, with the option to extend it for another two.
PS If I were him, I would have gone straight to Timisoara’s centre back Marian Cisovsky and said a big “thank you!”…
Second place in the league, impressive displays especially at home, biggest chances to win the league according to the bookies. This is Rapid? Well, yes, but not exactly. The club’s problems are bigger than the lack of consistency when playing away, the poor quality of their strikers or the increasing tensions from a dressing room full of players who (think thay they) deserve a place in the first eleven, especially in goal. They surfaced in the press this morning and speak not only of the already mentioned financial troubles, but also of some poor management from the board and a lack of professionalism that had been experienced in the past, at Rapid.
Here’s the list of problems that could affect the team’s performances and results sooner or later:
- the players haven’t been payed for more than two months and were hoping to see some cash after last round’s away win at Sportul; instead, they got yet another promise that this will happen after the derby against Steaua. Which is scheduled almost two weeks from now.
- Brazilian striker Cassio Vargas and the team’s second scorer this season was thrown out of his appartment, as the club failed to pay the rent since August. He was moved with his wife and two kids to another flat, close to his team mates Rui Duarte, Ezequias, Marcos Antonio and Bozovic, where he should follow Rui Duarte’s example, who didn’t wait for the club to pay the rent, as he would have found himself in the same delicate situation as the striker…
- The Portuguese Candido da Costa had the surprise to find his appartment without gas and electricity, problems that angered so much Vladimir Bozovic last season that the Montenegro international left Bucharest and threatened not to return at the club.
“I have to feed my family. I was supposed to send money back home, to Portugal, but I haven’t done that for the past two and a half months” – Rui Duarte, Portuguese full back, bought from FC Brasov this summer
As this is no premiere, Rapid should look beyond the expected financial trouble, which affects pretty much every Liga I club this season, and realize that there’s something wrong in the structure and the work of what was supposed to be one of the best organized professional clubs in Romania. The club’s owner, George Copos, loves to point to the board lead by Dinu Gheorghe everytime something goes bad and has a habit of complaining about the difficulties of running a club these days. Still, he was the one to accept in the first place last summer’s overspending and he was the one to jump for joy at Rapid’s wonderful displays from the start of the season. Staying on the sidelines and waiting for your employees to fail just to say “I told you so” at one point doesn’t look very smart to me. In fact, makes Rapid look like a ticking bomb, watched carefully by a sadistic, self-destructive owner…
According to gsp.ro, Lazio is looking for a strong centre-forward and the Greek is on a very short list, as the cheapest option, around 2 million Euros. Kapetanos has been a top player for Steaua, coming as a free agent two years ago and proving indispensable, scoring 26 goals in 54 appearances in Liga I. He is yet to feature this season, as he missed a big part of this summer’s training, being involved in the World Cup, and also because Steaua’s ex-coach, Victor Piturca, wanted a different type of player as the lone striker. Things look different now, though, as Ilie Dumitrescu, the new trainer, said that Kapetanos is one of the team’s four vital players and, without a replacement, he’s hoping that the Greek can stay fit throughout this campaign. The player is expected to start his first game on Monday, when Steaua plays the newly promoted Victoria Branesti, while I expect the player to stay put, in case of a 2 million Euros offer, given Dumitrescu’s strategy and Gigi Becali’s desperation to keep the new coach happy.
Name: Lukas Magera
Position: centre forward/central midfielder
Height/Weight: 195 cm/87 kg
Club: FC Timisoara
Liked the player since his arrival in Romania, at Dusan Uhrin’s request, and still believe that he can be one of Liga I’s top footballers, if used regularly in his natural position. This powerful centre-forward had “to pay” in the past for his excellent vision of the game and his ability to offer the final pass, being used a lot in central midfield, but things looked to have changed since the arrival of Vladimir Petrovic. Magera plays upfront alongside the creative and skillful Dorin Goga, an awesome partnership in my opinion, and the Czech has a perfect start of season. After a wonderful strike in the first round, Magera scored again last weekend, helping his team come from behind in a tough away match, against Gaz Metan Medias, for a 2-2 draw. The player offered another solid display, with his composed style and intelligent plays, looking comfortable on the ball, holding it upfield, opening up channels and throwing useful passes with both feet behind the opposition’s defense. Ok, he looked too slow at times, but it would be unrealistic to ask for pace from a player of his size, while it’s very clever from Petrovic to keep this guy as close to the danger zone as possible. Two goals and one assist in two games looks like a very promising return from a player who could enjoy his best season in Liga I. And probably his last.
Well, you could click here and see for yourselves, but, if you’re in a hurry, you could also take my following words for it: “Liability: Vytautas Cerniauskas – if he plays right away. The young goalie has just arrived, but, given the conflict between the club and first choice keeper Dusan Kuciak, he might get soon the chance to prove himself and I doubt that a second Arlauskis could arrive to Liga I so soon and make a similar impact. If I’d be in Caro’s place I would trust Haisan, who stepped in well even last season and should offer time and guidance to Cerniauskas, as well.”
Ok, enough bragging, I certainly don’t like it, but I’ve read that sometimes it does help. The fact is that FC Vaslui has just one point after two rounds (the 2-0 defeat against Rapid was followed by a 1-1 that’s a lot more difficult to digest, given the fact that Lopez Caro’s men were playing at home and against FCM Targu Mures, a newly promoted team) and Vytautas Cerniauskas has to take a part of the blame. Sorry, two parts, as he was at fault both for Rapid‘s and FCM‘s openers, making it very difficult for his team to come back in the game.
The Lithuanian U21 goalie may be promising, but so far I’ve seen, besides a justified fear to leave the goal-line, a worrying lack of agility. Size does matter, but it’s never enough! And Caro already started to look for solutions, the first press reports linking FC Vaslui with Steaua’s out of favor keeper, Robinson Zapata, while today there were stories referring to Kuciak’s possible return to the first team. Nothing about Vaslui’s chances to get back the five points lost in the first two rounds, though…