Hence the booing. You can hear it every time a player tries to help his team get a free kick or, if the player is really good at it, not like Tottenham’s Bale, get a penalty. There’s an entire debate about diving in the Premier League and below, with some fine players getting the stick for trying to get their clubs closer to victories. That would never happen here, in Romania, where diving will only be sanctioned with laughs and an extra replay on TV, if they’re indeed performed without talent. Yes, talent matters, but you also need other stuff too, like practice and ability to make good judgement, as a referee would definitely take into consideration the fact that, if you’d have resisted that challenge, it was only the goalie left to beat. Either you’re absolutely mad to go down or that was an obvious foul which he didn’t see. Obviously, both answers are wrong – you were simply clever to make him think like that. If you’re playing for the home team, even better. If you’re wearing Steaua’s, Dinamo’s, CFR’s or Vaslui’s shirt, you might have just helped the guy with the whistle buy a nice present for the wife!
Dear English fans, in Romania, all the players are diving and everyone understands it. The fans would boo a terrible diver and will appreciate a talented one. Take Marius Lacatus, the master. Became a legend with Steaua and his number 7 shirt should not be offered to anyone. Lay it nicely inside the box, put two defenders to guard it, add a friendly referee and only then let the new signings fight for it. Or, better said, throw themselves at it. Everybody knew Lacatus was faking it, throwing his head back (big hair helped), even screaming when going down and staying there for minutes, curing quickly with his magic hand all sorts of terrible injuries. Unfortunately for him, instead of becoming a doctor after he hung up his boots, he decided to fake a successful coaching career. Everybody knew that the Lacatus in agony is just fine, fans, team-mates, opponents, referees, yet they could do nothing about it.
And what was there to be done? In the end, Lacatus was fooling the authorities, he was taking that extra step to help himself and his people, bending the law that little bit, a sport everybody was practicing in real life. Putting something in the doctor’s pocket for extra care, going with flowers, coffee or chocolate to any other public authority that needed to realize that you’d really want them to do their job. Steaua’s number 7 was the girlfriend “about to give birth” sitting in the right seat in your speeding car, good enough to convince a policeman to keep your money and return the driving license.
I cannot imagine what would have happened if Lacatus – who did play for Fiorentina and Oviedo – would have joined a Premier League club in the 90′s… Most likely, he would have been booed off from every pitch in the UK, even from people’s lawns and public parks, every week, but what if the English fans would have seen then – and acknowledged – one of the greatest divers of all at that time? I’d say they would’ve taunted now Bale only for being terrible at it…
If it was down to the fans’ vote, then Novak Martinovic, a 26 years old Serbian centre-back, could make history in Ghencea, six months after his transfer from the relegation threatened Pandurii Targu Jiu! Although this has small chances to happen, as Marius Lacatus will ask the players to name the team’s captain during this winter break, it’s interesting to see how such a low profile player gathered over 40.000 votes (the poll was launched by gsp.ro).
Martinovic had previously played 36 matches in Liga I for Pandurii Targu Jiu and was brought as back-up to Steaua this summer by Victor Piturca for around 100.000 Euros, being the fifth choice for a place in central defense. His chances to feature looked even slimmer once Piturca left the club, although some might remember a quote that brought smiles a year ago or so: “Martinovic is the best centre-back in Liga I”. It belonged to Sorin Cartu. Yes, that Sorin Cartu!
His record at Steaua isn’t impressive either! He featured in just three games in Liga I (six matches in all competitions), yet this is not a prank planned by Steaua’s passionate fans, who were impressed with the excellent attitude displayed with each appearance. He gave it all, even when playing as a desperate solution at right back, where his modest technical ability could have been exposed and used as a reason to send him away during the current break. The Serb took each match as it was his last and the fans’ vote might not impress Lacatus, but should definitely send a signal to the entire squad, packed with more quality players, but one that has gone through so many changes in a short period that lacks a true leader on the pitch.
Anyway, it’s comforting to know that, in such an over-priced market full of mediocre footballers, you can find passion, ambition and determination at affordable prices. Caused by the lack of demand, obviously…
Last game of the year for Steaua, who could go through in case of a win or a draw and get the chance to look a lot better in the spring, when top players like Galamaz, Brandan or Bilasco will finally become available. The current campaign has been strange, with results above expectations, given the lack of options Lacatus often had to deal with. It won’t be any different tonight, three important attacking players missing through injury (Tanase) or suspension (Kapetanos, Nicolita), and, no matter how many times the coach will say that trying to preserve the initial 0-0 will be suicidal, I cannot see past a very defensive setup and a counter-attacking side.
I expect to see three defensive midfielders deployed in the central area, trying to break down attacks, with only Angelov experienced enough though to keep hold of the ball, as well as succeed in starting a counter. The Romanian press gives the very offensive Bonfim on the right side of the defense, but with Latovlevici on the opposite side having the same mentality, I think Lacatus might go for the aggressive Martinovic, who is a natural centre-back and lacks the instinct and the quality to push forward and leave the flank exposed. The very promising Gardos can be an option of the anchorman role, but playing him there would mean that Lacatus still doesn’t trust him enough to use him in the last line of defense. If he’ll start in midfield, Bicfalvi should remain on the bench.
To conclude, Steaua’s ability to defend and stay focused for 90-98 minutes will be seriously tested and vital for the team’s chances to progress, as the three forwards can only provide a threat as individuals, having pace and/or skill to take out an opponent and take their shots, but looking at their season so far, reasons to trust them are hard to find. As good as he is, Stancu has scored most of his numerous goals at home, Surdu lacks quality and will rely on pace and luck, while Szekely has decent skill, but has failed to regain his best form and match fitness since his return from a long lay-off. So, with little chances to hurt Napoli on the break, I expect Steaua to take that suicidal approach and defend in numbers, hoping (praying, in Gigi Becali’s case) to survive. It’s not the best plan, but everyone must accept that it was the only one possible…
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…
Pick: DNB: FC Vaslui @ 1.74 (Gamebookers)
A regional derby, between two teams in need of points. Poli started the year pretty well, but underperformed last weekend, getting a very lucky away draw against Astra Ploiesti, while FC Vaslui will be looking to bounce back from the ugly defeat suffered at home against Gloria Bistrita. The pressure is on Vaslui and their coach, Marius Lacatus, who is expecting a vote of confidence from his players. Reasons for this pick:
- Vaslui has a superior roster. The first games in 2010 have been rather disappointing, but the amount of quality players available at FC Vaslui is impressive. Especially in attack, where Gerlem, Wesley, Costly or Burdujan are proven players, but have failed to click for some reason, so coach Lacatus could try and leave out one of two from the first eleven, to gain some balance and not have so many possible match winners looking for the killer punch all the time. Read more…
- 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.
The latest target of one of the most active clubs in the winter mercato, FC Vaslui, is Carlos Yair Costly Molina. The Honduras-born striker is 27 years old and belongs to GKS Belchatow, in Poland. He also spent half of season on loan to Birmingham City, but didn’t manage to score a single goal in eight appearances. This season isn’t brilliant either, with just one goals scored in ten matches, but FC Vaslui is ready to buy the 1,90 m striker, who, back in January 2009, was also a target for Steaua, and has now entered the last six months of his contract with the Polish side.
Update: The player just arrived in Romania, where he said that he looks forward to working with coach Marius Lacatus, who also attempted to buy him when he was on Steaua’s bench. FC Vaslui prepared a two and a half years long contract and this definitely looks like a done deal already.