Position last season: 1st place
CFR was one of the least impressive champions in recent years and I would rate the team below the likes of Unirea Urziceni and Otelul Galati, considered huge surprises when they won the league, although they did possess two vital attributes: physical preparation and tactical discipline.
Brought to avoid what looked like a probable poor end of the season, Ioan Andone didn’t manage to take more out of the team than his predecessor, Jorge Costa, the former fierce FC Porto defender. The squad looked old, slow, predictable, lacked style and impressive performers (Greek striker Pantelis Kapetanos would be the exception from the rule), but somehow the most effective team in recent years in terms of winning trophies managed to add another title to its’ ever growing cabinet.
Important transfers out: Beto (goalkeeper, key player), Sixto Peralta (central midfielder, key player)
Beto was in Portugal’s squad for Euro 2012 only as a backup, but he was the only player from Liga I present at the final tournament, and CFR couldn’t extend the loan from Porto for a second season. It’s a blow they’ve covered with another Portuguese goalie, but they’ve lost a player used to be part of a winning team with one that barely avoided relegation with FC Brasov.
Peralta’s another big name and, in spite of the criticism he got sometimes, I still consider him the midfielder with the best vision and intelligence that has been seen in Liga I in recent years. Slow and not too sharp from the physical point of view, the Argentinian was an asset for CFR, who tried to get rid of him – or at least his big salary – in the past too, but realized back then that it would have been a mistake. One that they’ve made now, probably, not just by releasing him, but by failing to add to the roster a central midfielder capable to organize the build-up by looking forward, not backwards or sideways.
CFR’s first defeat in 2012 proved fatal for the former FC Porto defender, who was heading for a first title, but won’t be there to enjoy a win that’s still likely, as the club holds a five point advantage at the top of the standings. Defeated 0-5 at home versus Rapid, Jorge Costa has been released a day later and on Sunday evening, the name of his replacement was already known: Ioan Andone.
“It’s the perfect choice!”, says the media and, although it does feel very wrong for the Portuguese coach who is packing his bags, it looks right for the guy who’s stepping in with nine rounds left to play in Liga I. Andone is the coach that helped CFR win its’ first title back in 2008 (made the double, actually, that year!), but was sacked six rounds into the following season, due to a poor start in the league! The coach lost the chance to guide the team into the group stage of the Champions League, where the Romanian champions went on to meet Chelsea and Bordeaux and stun AS Rome. That call came only a couple of weeks after club owner Arpad Paszkany was showing his support for Andone, saying that “he’ll grow old at this club”…
Of all the top clubs, only two will attack the next season with the same coach. Mandorlini‘s double with CFR Cluj and Levy‘s abilty to continue Dan Petrescu’s outstading work for Unirea Urziceni offered them the chance to stay put and enjoy the results of the previous campaign.
In a previous post, I had anticipated an agitated summer in this field, but my expectations were exceeded by the decision of two coaches that could have stayed: Sabau (FC Timisoara) and Lacatus (FC Vaslui), both leaving their clubs for personal reasons; Sabau - for his inability to connect with Timisoara’s football-loving fans, Lacatus - following the disappointing ending of a solid season.
With so many ambitious clubs looking for good coaches, it’s been more interesting looking for the moves in this area, rather than “buying” the rumors sold on a daily basis by the sporting newspapers regarding the players that might come to Romania this summer. Dinamo went for their old player and coach (although he’s still quite young), Ioan Andone, who was replaced at Rapid by the former Gloria Bistrita manager, Marius Sumudica. Sumudica, an icon in Giulesti, will get a lot of help by Rapid’s new and old president, Dinu Gheorghe. With Steaua still pushing for a deal with Victor Piturca, who, for the past two or three weeks, has arranged transfers and even decided who will be the club’s president!, FC Vaslui was the club that managed to go for something new and very exciting indeed: a staff lead by Lopez Caro, who had the chance to work with the likes of Guti and Zidane and now will try to teach Burdujan that football is a team’s sport and that it’s okay to pass the ball every once in a while, even if the game is indeed decided by goals.
If the move becomes official today, as announced, Vaslui’s owner, Adrian Porumboiu, shows once again that he cares about his investment in football and that he knows very well what he has to do in order to continue the impressive development of his club. He keeps going forward, while “the big guns” from Bucharest are chasing their tales, looking back at their last moments of triumph and hiring the guys that managed to deliver…
We’re close to the end, now, but I doubt that what’s going to happen in the last three rounds will change things. I’ll explain: CFR is still the favorite to win the title, but the team struggled so badly that Mandorlini should be dismissed even in case of a successful scenario. The only team capable of winning the league seems Unirea Urziceni, so Ronny Levy should be kept at all costs for the coming season, even if Unirea will fail to defend the title won last year under Dan Petrescu. But let’s take a look at the top clubs that should/will change coaches this summer:
- CFR Cluj – in spite of its position in the standings and the club’s chances to win the title, Mandorlini failed to connect with his players and to put his mark on a team that plays poor football for months. Period! He worked during the winter on a tactical system he had to abandon after the first official matches. He recommended three Italian players – Bottone, De Zerbi and Piccolo - who looked completely useless. He saw top players getting out of shape – Kone, Traore – and couldn’t do anything to get them back at their best. Was lucky to draw against strong teams and simply took advantage of his superior roster to win by a small margin – the Italian style – against the smaller clubs. Although he has the backing of the board (intelligent enough to keep the staff and the players focused on the title, hiding the obvious disappointment), Mandorlini will/should not be offered another deal. Verdict: change him!
- Unirea Urziceni – Levy did what few expected: take over from Dan Petrescu and keep what everyone still considers (in spite of everything these players have done even in the Champions League!) an average team, formed by decent, but mediocre footballers, at the top of the league with chances even to defend the title won last season. A solid coach, who tried to further develop the team, going for a more Latin/technical style, who should be kept at all costs. Levy’s problem is that next season he will probably find himself without the likes of Galamaz, Brandan, Bilasco and will be forced to show his recruiting ability, as well. Verdict: keep him! Read more…
- FIFA agent Victor Becali has planned a trip to Bulgaria, in order to talk with CSKA’s board and release Daniel Pancu of his current deal. Pancu had moved to Sofia during the winter break, following Ioan Andone, but, in spite of some decent performances, fell out of favor with the new coach, with the angry fans and didn’t get paid in the last couple of months, so he decided to leave the club. Currently training (which isn’t ok, is it?) with Rapid, Pancu stated that he would agree a return to Rapid, after solving an old conflict with the club’s owner, George Copos. A good move for Rapid if all goes well, as this is also a step made by Copos to keep coach Ioan Andone at the club at least for another season.
- The dismissal of Italian coach Nicolo Napoli was followed by a similar episode to the one that made Dinamo keep the headlines in the past week. Four players (all bought this winter, at Napoli’s demand) refused to make the trip to Ceahlaul, for a game that could be vital for Astra’s future in the Liga I. Marcelo Mendez, Diego Silva, Danilo Carando and Gonzalo Salgueiro are now on the black list and could have the same faith as Alejandro Kruchowsky and Maximiliano Arias, the two defenders who were already released, after a string of poor performances.
The Red Dogs lost another central defender for a long period of time, with Lucian Goian, who had to replace the injured Dragos Grigore, set to miss the rest of the season, after a hard contact with keeper Emanuel Dolha, during the cup match against CFR. Goian has damaged knee ligaments and coach Talnar has now two options for pairing up with Moti, in central defense: Cristian Daminuta (played only a couple of minutes for the first team) and the Czech Martin Zivny (who is yet to make his debut, playing four times for Dinamo II, in the second division). It’s a very difficult moment for the red and white outfit, coming exactly when the team was mounting a serious title challenge, after a poor first half of season. Ahead of the away game against Unirea Urziceni, scheduled on Sunday, Dinamo will surely miss Scarlatache (defender, suspended), Grigore, Goian (defenders, injured) and D. Kone (midfielder, suspended). Diabate (defender), Alexe (forward) and Marius Niculae (forward) are doubtful, but will have to make themselves available, as Niculescu and Bratu are completely out of form and useless. The good news is that top scorer Andrei Cristea is set to return from suspension, following the stupid red card received against Otelul Galati.
- Rapid – Universitatea Craiova could be the last game for Nicolae Manea as Rapid’s coach. Manea is determined to quit, unhappy that club owner George Copos made very public his search for another trainer, with Mircea Rednic and Ioan Andone asked in the past couple of weeks to take over and save the current season, by qualifying the team for Europa League. With 11 rounds to go, Rapid lies in 7th place, but is only three points away from a European spot and seven from league leaders, CFR Cluj. Read more…