It was called “The transfers file” and, strictly linked to an investigation lead by Gazeta Sporturilor, ended up today, after eight long years, with eight important names sent behind bars, for money laundering and tax evasion. The biggest of all: Gheorghe Popescu, former Romanian international, former Barcelona captain, who was days away from taking over the presidency of the Romanian Football Federation…
“I would have sold players to Bin Laden back then, it was all about getting money”, stated Cristian Borcea a while ago in front of judges who have felt everything, from mockery to fear, during this long period, from the persons pleading their innocence. Borcea was a key shareholder with Dinamo and just like George Copos, who took Rapid from glory to agony during his tenure as club owner, had retired from the spotlight, laying low, hoping it will all go away.
Others haven’t. Brothers Victor and Ioan “Giovani” Becali went on pulling strings on the transfer market, Mihai Stoica was in charge of Steaua, while Gheorghe Popescu had all but moved his family pictures into the office that Mircea Sandu is preparing to leave. Surprisingly, the race for the presidency of the FRF lost its front-runner at the last minute and for a very long time.
Here’s the list of the definitive sentences heard today:
- George Copos (former owner of Rapid Bucharest) – 3 years and 8 months
- Mihai Stoica (current Steaua sporting director) – 3 years and 6 months
- Cristi Borcea (former shareholder at Dinamo Bucharest) – 6 years and 4 months
- Ioan Becali (FIFA agent) – 6 years and 4 months
- Victor Becali (FIFA agent) – 4 years and 8 months
- Jean Padureanu (former president of Gloria Bistrita) – 3 years and 4 months
- Gheorghe Popescu (former international, lobbied Florin Bratu’s transfer to Galatasaray) – 3 years and 1 month
- Gigi Netoiu (former shareholder at various clubs) – 3 years and 4 months
All were involved in deals that saw player sold abroad, smaller transfer fees entered in the clubs’ books and part of the real fees ran through personal off-shore accounts.
Here’s the list of transfers that lead to the above sentences:
- Iulian Arhire – from Otelul Galati to Pohang Steelers (1999)
- Ionel Ganea – from Gloria Bistrita to VfB Stuttgart (1999)
- Cristi Dulca – from Rapid to Pohang Steelers (1999)
- Cosmin Contra – from Dinamo to Deportivo Alaves (1999)
- Bogdan Mara – from Dinamo to Deportivo Alaves (2001)
- Paul Codrea – from Dinamo to Genoa (2001)
- Florin Cernat – from Dinamo to Dynamo Kiew (2001)
- Nicolae Mitea – from Dinamo to Ajax (2003)
- Lucian Sanmartean – from Gloria Bistrita to Panathinaikos (2003)
- Florin Bratu – from Rapid to Galatasaray (2003)
- Adrian Mihalcea – from Dinamo to Chunnam (2004)
- Dan Alexa – from Dinamo to Beijing Guoan (2004)
Today’s decisions came as a shock for those involved in Romanian football. Lighter sentences for a couple of those involved and no punishment at all for the likes of Mihai Stoica and Gheorghe Popescu were expected. Well, sometimes, unlike Romanian football, Romanian justice can be unpredictable…
Position last season: 4th place
Under Razvan Lucescu, who went for a very experienced roster, thinking about the present, not the future, Rapid failed and I have to agree with the always discontent owner George Copos. The team was strong, very strong, last season, yet something happened along the way, when all the hunger and the flamboyant style slowly faded away and Rapid’s problems were exposed: lack of creativity in midfield, the absence of a goalscorer upfront and a general lack of determination among the top players. Rapid remains a very inconsistent team, strong at home, weak when playing away, and it will be interesting to see what will change under the command of former Rapid midfielder Ioan Ovidiu Sabau, who gets his first shot to fight for something important, after some good work for the likes of Gloria Bistrita and FCM Targu Mures. Used to coach small clubs and use very defensive setups, he will have to adapt quickly, to please the passionate fans who at least want to see some spectacular football, if they’re to lose the title, as usually happened in recent years…
Important transfers out: Dani Coman (goalkeeper, key player); Marcos Antonio (central defender, key player); Dan Alexa (defensive midfielder, key player); Ciprian Deac (winger, key player)
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…
Recently departed from CSKA Sofia, where the fans reacted badly to the team’s slimmer chances to win the league and forced him to quit after only five games (2 wins, three draws!), Ioan Andone makes another risky choice.
The former Dinamo defender and coach agreed to sign a contract with The Red Dogs’ fierce rivals from Rapid and the best scenario is that his appointment will be met with a mixed reaction by the club’s radical fans. His credentials as a coach in Romania are solid, but his past will not be easily forgotten and he definitely needs to make an impact from the very first game and in every match played until the end of the season. His goal is to reach a place in Europa League next season and, if he will impress, the contract that should expire in the summer, could be extended for another two years.
- Claudinei Alexandre Aparecido Nei (29) looks set to join newly promoted Unirea Alba Iulia, on a loan deal, until the end of the season. The Brazilian forward never looked good enough for CFR or any other team fighting for the title and, in case the deal will be finalized, he’ll meet in Alba Iulia three former colleagues from Cluj, Rade Veljovic (24, striker), Andres Felipe de Souza Galiassi (29, central defender), Vitinha (23, left back), who are also on loan, until the summer. Nei played a lot in the first half of the seasons, but scored only two goals in fourteen appearances in the league.
- Apparently George Copos, the owner of Rapid Bucharest, refused a tempting offer for the promising centre forward Alexandru Ionita (20). Promoted from the youth squad at the beginning of the season, Ionita scored 6 goals in the league already and also collected three call-ups to the U21 national team. The offer was higher than 1 mil. EUR and arrived at the club through FIFA agent Traian Gherghisan. According to the press, Ionita earns only 2.000 EUR / month, while the decision of Copos is rather strange, given his recent financial struggles and the desire to sell the club.
- With Rui Duarte (29) still just a transfer target and while waiting for Polish international Pawel Golanski to extend the contract that is running out in the summer, Steaua is also looking at the possibility to get back George Ogararu (29), from Ajax Amsterdam. Already transfer listed by the Dutch club, Ogararu refused a move to Roda and says that he won’t have a problem in convincing the club to release him on a free transfer, as he’s currently still getting 700.000 EUR / season.
- Steaua seems to have agreed to sign three players, but only one deal has some sort of confirmation so far: the Bulgarian centre-back Zhivko Zhelev agreed to a 10.000 EUR/month contract and will leave his current club, Otelul Galati. In exchange, Steaua will send to Galati the talented left midfielder Razvan Ochirosii (who was “snatched” from the same club by Mihai Stoica, now at Unirea Urziceni), one of the hottest prospects a few years ago, but who never made it among the seniors at Steaua. Otelul gets rid of a problem and also gets 50% of a talented 20 years old. Good deal!
- The other two Steaua targets: Bulgarian striker Hristo Yovov and Rwanda central defender Edwin Ouon.
- Adrian Cristea (attacking midfielder, Dinamo, 26 years old) has been offered to Kuban Krasnodar for 1 mil. EUR. This is no surprise, as Dan Petrescu, the new manager, has been given complete control over transfers and already announced that will try to sign 5 or 6 Romanian players. Cristea is definitely among the most talented, but has an atitude problem and is a gamble Petrescu won’t make. Same situation with Ianis Zicu (attacking midfielder, Dinamo, 26 years old), although Petrescu already tried to sign him when he was coaching Unirea Urziceni, so has better chances. Anyway, it’s going to be a very good month for agents Victor and Ioan “Giovani” Becali ;-).
- Vladimir Bozovic (left back/left midfielder, Rapid, 28 years old) is a target for a French first division outfit, according to his agent, Zvonko Milojkovic. Rapid is in deep financial trouble and owner George Copos has been trying to sell the club (the German businessman Lutz Stache was the last person interested in such a deal), so raising money from transfers looks like the only option right now. Rapid paid 200.000 for his transfer from OFK Belgrade in 2007, but won’t settle for anything below 1 mil. EUR.
- In case Gigel Bucur (striker, FC Timisoara, 29 years old) leaves to club – an offer from Kuban is expected – the Viola outfit will try to sign the Argentinian Pablo Osvaldo Vazquez (centre forward, Strongest, 27 years old).
- The talented Gheorghe Grozav (forward, Unirea Alba Iulia, 19 years old) is very close to a deal with Standard Liege, where he went on trial last summer and left a good impression. The transfer fee: 300.000 EUR