After 3 years of hard work and many more millions invested in a football academy and a football club promoted to the top flight last summer, Gheorghe Hagi is ready to collect his first cheque and it could well be a player that has quite a few things in common with the man once nicknamed Maradona of the Carpathians. He’s a precocious left footed attacking midfielder who doesn’t feel the weight of the number 10 shirt nor the pressure of first division football at a young age, in the team with the youngest average age in the league, and has already netted 6 goals in 16 appearances, at the age of 18.
Tested by Ajax Amsterdam, who already has its expert eyes on the likes of Bogdan Tiru and Cristian Gavra – other two talents from Hagi’s Academy – and scouted also by Galatasaray, who could really sell the story of the King’s heir in Turkey, Iancu is now facing the biggest decision of his young career. In need of cash to continue the development of the Academy, as well as supporting the growing costs of a first division club, Hagi has decided to listen to any offers this winter and Steaua Bucharest was the quickest to table a sum close to what’s expected in exchange of a player that doesn’t pop up very often in this part of the world.
He started just like me, at a young age and in the sound of goals. He’s skilful and has the ability to make quick decisions. By doing so, Iancu looks quick in everything he does, although he’s not the fastest player around.
Gheorghe Hagi on Gabriel Iancu
“Steaua must now discuss personal terms with the player”, admits Hagi, who refuses to say that the race between interested clubs has now ended, but as far as I know, has demanded some guarantees that the youngster will be offered the chance to play for the senior team, so he can continue his impressive development. Hopefully, Steaua will keep its’ word, not only for Iancu’s sake, but also for the club’s image, more famous recently for wasting talent, rather than properly nurturing it…
It all started three years ago, when the legendary Gheorghe Hagi started to develop his football academy, just outside Constanta. Three years and around 10 million Euros later, the results are outstanding and show that a serious approach to youth development will pay dividends. The Academy has now almost 30 players getting regular call-ups to Romania’s youth national teams (Alexandru Buzbuchi, George Serban, Adrian Putanu, Bogdan Tiru, Gabriel Iancu and Cristian Gavra – all recently involved in the Elite Round played by the U19 in Serbia, against the hosts, Germany and Hungary) and today another important event took place.
Viitorul Constanta, the platform offered to the growing talents of the Academy to prove themselves among the seniors, won 2-0 against Sageata Stejaru (goals by the young internationals Putanu and Iancu) in the last round of the Liga 2 season and earned a second consecutive promotion. The blue and white outfit will be playing first division football next season and it’s another fantastic achievement for Hagi’s club.
Of course, this is the real test for the project and Hagi must be strong enough to resist the temptation to try and fight the usual faces of the first division using their weapons. He needs to stay faithful to the excellent work done so far and keep on offering the chance to play at a higher level to the most talented 17, 18 and 19 years old from his Academy. Viitorul doesn’t need to do more than stay up in the clubs’ first season on this stage and should stay focused on the club’s main goal: promoting the excellent prospects who are already coming to age. There’s the risk of going back to the second tier after one year, but let’s not forget the not so old adventures of Sportul Studentesc, who even fought for the title a few years ago using only Romanian players – most of them very young -, a club Hagi’s quite familiar with…
Linked with all the big guns from Romania that were looking for a top coach at one point, Hagi stated recently that he will refuse any offer that comes to him after the beginning of a season, as he’d like to avoid the mistakes done in his coaching career. Today, he made an exception for Galatasaray Istanbul, one of the three teams that he likes to consider “home”, alongside Steaua Bucharest and the national team, where he’d surely love to get a second chance to prove himself.
In spite of Galata’s poor start of the season and the pressure he’ll have to whitstand in the first year, I think it’s a good decision, as he had to return to coaching rather sooner than later, and waiting for the right project to come along has kept him on the sidelines a bit too much. He never walked away from football, though, as in the past two years he managed to build an excellent football academy, which is now represented in the Romanian second division, hosts tournaments involving top clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid, and gathers most of the talented kids who are hoping to follow in his footsteps. Read more…
Becali’s improvising: Ilie Dumitrescu, who was initially asked to be the club’s president, is the new coach!
Humiliated by Victor Piturca and facing the fans’ anger, Gigi Becali had to move quickly and try to please the masses. The initial plan was to convince Anghel Iordanescu, Ilie Dumitrescu (president) and Gheorghe Hagi (coach) to take charge, but Hagi’s refusal to abandon the excellent project at his football academy and return to work for the man that had insulted him beyond excuse forced Iordanescu to retire from the project. Dumitrescu, who had announced his intention to give up coaching earlier this year, becoming a football pundit, didn’t. After a formal attempt to convince Hagi – his former colleague from Steaua and the national team - to take up the coaching position, the former Tottenham man accepted Becali’s proposal to occupy this role, asking for a symbolic one year long deal of just 1 Ron (around 25 eurocents), hoping to prove that his decision was determined by the love for the club and having more or less the same dream as Victor Piturca: to be Becali’s partner, rather than his always-exposed-to-public-humiliation-employee. Dumitrescu, who’s most notable experience as a coach was a short spell at AEK Athens, was presented today in a press conference by the Steaua’s new president, the legendary Helmuth Duckadam, the keeper who kept out four penalties out of five in the 1986 European Champions Cup final versus Barcelona. Below are the most interesting comments released today: