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…
His name is George Galamaz and is Unirea Urziceni’s skipper, the leader of one of the best organized defenses in the past two seasons. The 29 years old has been playing for the reigning champions since February 2007 and has recently stated that he will move in the summer, on a free transfer, after Unirea failed to come up with an interesting proposal. This is a blow for Unirea Urziceni, as the club will lose for free a top player and a solid professional, but in my opinion also a sign that the good days are over and that this small team will return to mediocrity very, very soon…
Who’s after Galamaz? Pretty much every Romanian club with ambition, but I believe that the player will move abroad starting next season. The question is: is there a club wise enough to take advantage of his services in the next two-three years and tempt him with a sporting challenge that will make him think twice about the prospect of joining Dan Petrescu and Gigel Bucur in the Russian second division, at Kuban Krasnodar, just for the money?
- The long negotiations between Kuban Krasnodar and Gheorghe Bucur (29) are getting close to a happy-end. The prolific striker from FC Timisoara has been offered a wage around 600.000 EUR and hours ago announced that only small details need to be put into place, in order to complete the deal. Apparently, FC Timisoara won’t make any problems, as “the player will be repaid for his excellent services”, but probably has already agreed to a transfer fee, in the region of 1-1,5 mil. EUR.
- FC Vaslui is testing these days Peter Dolezaj, a 28 years old central defender, from Spartak Trnava. The Slovakian centre-back has already featured in a friendly game for FC Vaslui and awaits the decision of coach Marius Lacatus.
- Gheorghe “Gigel” Bucur (29) is very close to a move away from Timisoara. The prolific striker (17 goals in 2007-2008, 16 goals in 2008-2009 and 8 goals midway through the current season) is most likely to join his former coach from Sportul Studentesc, Dan Petrescu, who is currently managing second league club Kuban Krasnodar in Russia.
- The Australian group from Universitatea Craiova will suffer some changes this winter, as the club is trying to part ways with defnders Joshua Rose (28) and Josh Mitchell (25). Rose can play anywhere on the left, but is a mediocre midfielder/winger, so is more useful as an attacking left back. Has been a consistent player for Universitatea, playing 113 games in the blue and white outfit and scoring 9 goals in the process. Mitchell is also left footed and can play as left back in a flat back four or as a central-left defender. Has featured in 107 games in 4 and a half seasons and is currently in a conflict with Universitatea’s board. If both players will leave, Universitatea will keep only two Aussies in the squad: tenacious midfielder Spase Dilevski (24) and striker Michael Baird (26).
- The board from CFR Cluj has been advised by former team captain Eugen Trica to accept any decent bid for talented forward Lacina Traore. Good advice, as Traore is currently followed by several important clubs from England and Germany and CFR has missed several opportunites so far to cash in on other good players that now are feeling jaded and playing below their ability. Sebastian Dubarbier and Juan Culio impressed last season when playing in the Champions League’s group stage, but CFR refused to lower inflated demands when the offers came in and now have every reason to regret that, as both players seem unable to raise their performances back to that level.
- 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