Once the Champions League draw ends, three European clubs and the huge number of football they can surely put together will try to find out more about Cluj, the city of Romanian champions, CFR. Well, if foreigners have every right to think of this club whenever they hear the city’s name – given the recent success and European exposure –, Romanians know that, first of all, this is the home of Universitatea. A club with an impressive history that managed to keep a strong bond with the majority of local fans, in spite of mediocre performances in recent years – something that couldn’t even come close to what CFR achieved in the past decade.
Well, the patience and fidelity of the fans will be tested once again, as a period of torment started with the departure of club owner and major investor Florian Walter to Petrolul Ploiesti (alongside a dozen of the team’s best players from last season) will now reach its climax. The club’s new president, Ana Maria Prodan, who is none other than the wife of Steaua’s coach, Laurentiu Reghecampf – Romanian football, always surprising! -, made her move, after several threats of taking Universitatea away from its fans, unless financial support will come from the local authorities.
An official statement says that until the end of the current season, U will play its home games in Buzau, some 400 km away from Cluj. The team will abandon not only its home town, but also a brand new stadium, the impressive Cluj Arena (Elite category, 30.335 seats, re-built in 2011 and branded for Universitatea – this is the reason why CFR recently declined the chance to play there Champions League matches!), to move to a venue that offered shelter to other clubs in dark periods of their history: Steaua Bucuresti, Petrolul Ploiesti and Otelul Galati.
A terrible decision that will surely generate an answer from the club’s passionate fans. And I’m afraid it’s not going to be a nice one, as they’ve often produced when supporting the Red Caps…
After Claudiu Niculescu (Universitatea Cluj) and Bogdan Stelea (Astra Ploiesti), round six of the Romanian first division could bring massive changes. Marian Bondrea is the first victim, getting the sack from CS Severin, the team he managed to promote for the first time in Liga I. The team had collected only two points so far and will be coached by Liviu Ciobotariu, who will meet next weekend Ceahlaul Piatra Neamt, defeated yesterday by Viitorul Constanta, at home, a result that determined Costel Enache to ask the board to look for a replacement. “I want them to understand that I cannot control the situation anymore!”, said Enache, a similar statement to the one released by Ionut Popa. The experienced coach of newly-promoted CSMS Iasi had already made an attempt to leave his post before the start of the season and now had another talk with the board, asking to be released!
UPDATE: In spite of an official announcement on CS Turnu Severin’s website, Liviu Ciobotariu refused to take over the team and signed for CSMS Iasi, who released yesterday afternoon Ionut Popa!
And this is not all, as Dorinel Munteanu looks just as determined to leave former champions Otelul Galati. “It’s 99% sure I won’t be coaching this team anymore!”, said the man who holds the record of international caps for Romania, very upset at the financial struggle of a team that two years ago was playing in the Champions League group stage, but also at the struggle for power within the club. “I don’t even know who I’m supposed to talk to about this!”, said Munteanu, who won just one game this season…
So, one coach sacked, three others waving the white flag and waiting for a decision this week, which could have set a new record, considering that Ioan Ovidiu Sabau and Marius Sumudica weren’t feeling so comfortable either, before this round. But Rapid produced a miracle, coming back from 0-2 down to win 3-2 versus CFR Cluj, scoring 3 goals in 20 minutes while playing 10 vs. 11, and FC Vaslui also came back after a terrible 1st half and one goal down to win 3-1 versus Steaua, last night!
- FC Severin – Universitatea Cluj 1-1 (Abba 83 / V. Dinu 7)
- CFR Cluj – CSMS Iasi 2-2 (Cadu 20 pen, Hora 73 / Milea 69, Herghelegiu 71)
- Concordia Chiajna – Dinamo 0-0
- Gloria Bistrita – FC Vaslui 0-3 (Milanov 37, M. Niculae 48, Sburlea 90)
- Petrolul Ploiesti – Rapid 0-0
- Steaua – Ceahlaul Piatra Neamt 3-0 (Rusescu 11, 60, Adi Rocha 33)
- Viitorul Constanta – Gaz Metan Medias 0-1 (Astafei 87)
- Pandurii Targu Jiu – Otelul Galati 3-2 (Maxim 19 pen, Boutadjine 72, 92 / Iorga 62 pen, Inkango 90)
- FC Brasov – Astra Ploiesti 1-2 (Cr. Munteanu 3 pen / Gaman 26 pen, Fatai 37)
- Astra Giurgiu – FC Severin 1-1 (Bukari 74 / Vancea 45)
- CSMS Iasi – Petrolul Ploiesti 2-2 (Straton 53, Patulea 93 / Hamza 41, Marinescu 88 pen.)
- Universitatea Cluj – Viitorul Constanta 2-1 (V. Dinu 1, Cleiton 78 / Dica 94)
- FC Vaslui – Pandurii Targu Jiu 0-0
- Gaz Metan Medias – Steaua 1-1 (Astafei 36 / Rusescu 79)
- Otelul Galati – CFR Cluj 1-2 (Inkango 37 / G. Muresan 7 pen., Ronny 53)
- Ceahlaul Piatra Neamt – Gloria Bistrita 2-0 (Golubovic 38 pen., Lukanovic 74)
- Concordia Chiajna – FC Brasov 2-1 (Ad. Popa 24, 35 / Hadnagy 52)
- Dinamo – Rapid – postponed
- Gloria Bistrita – Gaz Metan Medias 1-1 (Predescu 51 / D. Roman 80)
- Pandurii Targu Jiu – Ceahlaul 3-1 (Radut 40, 50, Maxim 45 / Margina 59)
- CS Severin - Concordia Chiajna 0-1 (Ad. Popa 90)
- Petrolul Ploiesti – Otelul Galati 2-1 (Boudjemaa 19, 82 / Inkango 89)
- CFR Cluj – FC Vaslui 3-0 (Cadu 16 pen, Bastos 69, 83)
- Viitorul Constanta – Astra Ploiesti 0-0
- Steaua – Universitatea Cluj 5-1 (Rocha 16, 60, Rusescu 62, Tanase 71 pen, 84 / V. Dinu 81)
- Rapid – CSMS Iasi 1-0 (Goga 16)
- FC Brasov – Dinamo 2-2 (Batin 16, Buga 59 / D. Grigore 39, C. Matei 72)
- FC Brasov – CS Severin 2-1 (Buga 2, I. Popa 83 / Thomas 56)
- Ceahlaul – CFR Cluj 2-2 (Ichim 28, Tolimir 66 / Kapetanos 20, Maftei 76)
- Gaz Metan Medias – Pandurii Targu Jiu 0-2 (Nistor 15, Ibeh 70)
- Astra Ploiesti – Steaua 3-4 (Enache 12, 38, J. Morais 47 / Tanase 19, Martinovic 22, Rusescu 62, Rocha 67)
- FC Vaslui – Petrolul 3-0 (Sanmartean 22, Sburlea 70, M. Niculae 84)
- Universitatea Cluj – Gloria Bistrita 1-0 (Szilagyi 80)
- Dinamo – CSMS Iasi 5-2 (Tucudean 13, 22, 47, 49, Rus 50 / Onofras 27, Vladu 83)
- Concordia Chiajna – Viitorul Constanta 1-1 (Welington 53 / G. Iancu 29)
- Otelul Galati – Rapid 1-1 (Viglianti 27 / N. Grigore 74)
Wonderful performance from George Tucudean, who had started the season with 5 goals in 34 appearances in the top flight! The 21 years old striker took advantage of a very weak opponent and scored on Sunday evening four goals (and offered one assist, too!) in the 5-2 win against CSMS Iasi. He did all that in less than an hour, before being substituted with veteran striker Ionel Danciulescu, and in the second game started since another experienced fron man, Marius Niculae, had left the club and signed for FC Vaslui.
Now Tucudean – who had started the season in style, with a brace scored in the Romanian Supercup – will have to prove that his numbers were indeed affected by a competition that hasn’t always been fair in Dinamo’s attack, who desperately needed new blood. It will be a test of character and mental strength for the player that a few years ago was tested by Celtic to rise up to the occasion and take the chance to establish himself as a constintent performer at a good age. A test that won’t be easy, considering the fact that right after the game the youngster spoke without reservation of following the footsteps of his idol, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the friendly against Barcelona, scheduled on the 11th of August. A test he started worse than the season that could influence decisively his career…
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.
- Pandurii Targu Jiu – Universitatea Cluj 6-2 (Ibeh 11, 23, Viera 15, Radut 66 pen., Matulevicius 76, Karim 85 / Patrascu 43, Pacurar 75)
- CS Severin – Dinamo Bucharest 1-2 (Vancea 52 / Axente 50, Danciulescu 80)
- Petrolul Ploiesti – Ceahlaul Piatra Neamt 5-0 (Hamza 12, 17, 74, Grozav 49, Szukala 85)
- CFR Cluj – Gaz Metan 1-1 (Kapetanos 60 / Vasilache 27)
- CSMS Iasi – Otelul Galati 1-2 (Cl. Ionescu 60 / Iorga 52 pen., Viglianti 80)
- Gloria Bistrita – Astra Ploiesti 1-2 (Predescu 32 / Fatai 6, 10)
- Rapid Bucharest – FC Vaslui 2-2 (Pancu 45, Teixeira 84 / Wesley 31, 48)
- Viitorul Constanta – FC Brasov 2-2 (V. Rusu 32, Cr. Cristea 74 / Buga 2, 48)
- Steaua Bucharest - Concordia Chiajna 1-0 (Rusescu 49)
Position last season: 2nd place
The club that – in its’ short history – always managed to finish in a better position than in the previous year made one step closer to Adrian Porumboiu’s dream: winning the league. The wealthy former international referee will now be hoping that the season that just started won’t be the exception from the rule, as he made massive changes to the team and also made a surprising call, forcing the resignation of Augusto Inacio, the coach that had a short, but impressive tenure at the club. Last season, Vaslui boasted the most creative offensive trio in the league, Lucian Sanmartean – Wesley – Adailton, which compensated often for the big problems at the back, with the defenders tormented by injuries, the lack of a real scoring threat in the lone striker position and a lack of balance within the team.
Important transfers out: Paul Papp (central / right defender, key player), Adailton (forward, key player)
Vaslui agreed to part ways with Papp, who recently broke in the senior national team, Porumboiu showing that he’s learned from mistakes done in the past. The most notorious was blocking the transfer of Zoran Ljubinkovic a few years ago, after the midfielder had scored 16 goals in one season, and the following conflict with the Serbian player resulted in a one year ban in the transfer market for the club. So, the yellow-green outfit allowed a top defender to move to Chievo, but also lost easily to the same Serie A club the Slovakian centre-back Pavol Farkas, whom they’ve constantly under-rated, although he did very well in the first half of the season, when the back-line was heavily affected by injuries. Another important player who move away on a free transfer was the left midfielder Nemanja Milisavljevic, who covered the left back role as well, when needed, and now signed for Rapid, while there’s hope that the veteran Brazilian Adailton will return soon from his temporary retirement, as promised. He lost pace and stamina, but his ability to take set plays, as well as his invaluable experience, were assets that might be missed.