It’s been official for a couple of days now, but that doesn’t mean anything in Romania, as definitive sentences have been more than once revoked. It didn’t happen for Pandurii Targu Jiu, though, who
failed refused to find an agreement with Dinamo over an unpaid debt and has not been scheduled for what was supposed to be the first official match of the year. A much anticipated one, considering that the visitors were the league leaders Otelul Galati, a team nobody wants to see in the same spot, at the end of the season.
Media attacks followed, with most of the other title contenders stating that this was a clever way to fix a match, especially after Pandurii’s boss revealed that the club refused to pay, being trapped between two decisions: the Football Professional League forces them to pay for a transfer that has been considered void in a civil court, while the authorities have warned the club that it’s illegal to pay for something that hasn’t been done by the law.
The fact is that Pandurii lost 0-3 tonight’s game with Otelul and there are big question marks about what’s going to happen, as this case might get very ugly and affect more than the current season. Pandurii’s next match is against Dinamo and Condescu says that paying that money now would only confirm that they had refused to play with Otelul and favor the leaders. But I doubt that they’ll be sticking with this decision and accept to go down without a fight. Let’s not forget that we’re talking about the club that should have gone down twice in recent years, but managed to find a way to keep their Liga I place even when they finished the season below the line…
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…
This club should have been playing in the second division, based on last season’s results, but yet another compromise from the Professional League allowed Pandurii to take International’s place, following a deal that saw numerous players, plus the technical staff to move from Curtea de Arges to Targu Jiu. 10 rounds gone and this “2 in 1″ team occupies the last place in the standings, with just one win out of ten games, already 5 points away from the 14th place that guarantees salvation, of course, unless Pandurii will find another way to dribble through the so called laws of the game.
The two weeks break was make or break time for the board, who decided to release the young & promising Ionut Badea – who was linked with a job at Dinamo, in spite of his position in the standings! – and handed over the team to a more experienced coach like Petre Grigoras. Known for his ability to make his teams play attractive football, Grigoras comes after a difficult period, as he had to stay away from the game for medical reasons, and takes over one of the ugliest teams in the league. Pandurii were a tough nut to crack especially under CFR’s current coach, Sorin Cartu, nicknamed Sorinaccio for his ultra-defensive style, and Grigoras will be seriously tested by a roster divided in two groups of players: those who had played for Pandurii last season and the 16 that came this summer, from International.
The new coach will get to know the team in a five days training camp in Antalya, with the exception of two central defenders, Chiriches (selected in Romania’s U21) and Viera (called-up for Cote d’Ivoire’s match in Burundi), and has the biggest challenge in getting the team’s strikers in shape, as only Apostu scored so far (a brace, in Pandurii’s single win of the season), with the likes of Stromajer, Adrian Iordache and Antohi looking useless, unable to take advantage of a decent midfield, which contains decent players like Voiculet, Ilie Iordache, Orac and Bacila.
Name: Mihai Pintilii
Position: central defender
Height/Weight: 181 cm/75 kg
Club: Pandurii Targu Jiu
Left Jiul Petrosani on a free transfer in January and made an instant impact at International Curtea de Arges, where he collected 11 appearances in the top flight, finishing his first half of season at this level as the team’s captain. Now, he moved alongside his coach and colleagues from International to Pandurii, where he offered an excellent display in the first round of the season, against Unirea Urziceni. In spite of his small size for a centre-back, Pintilii managed to contain Unirea’s top centre-forward, Bilasco, an outstanding player in the air and a key man in Levy’s tactical plans. Pintilii was focused, quick, aggressive when required and outplayed Bilasco with his excellent anticipation, controlling his opponent on the chest and coming out for the ball at the right moment, with impressive efficiency. On top of that, he had to sweep several loose balls and generally had a lot of work, considering the poor displays from his partner Ousmane Viera and especially the highly-rated-for-no-reason left back, Cardoso. Looked a lot like Steaua’s former captain, Mirel Radoi, and I recall Pintilii being offered to Steaua a few years ago, but, at that time, the Bucharest side had players like Radoi, Ghionea or Goian in the team and the centre back had to return in the second division.
Well, you could say that it’s been an excellent summer break for Pandurii Targu Jiu, who managed to return to Liga I after just a couple of months and without having to play a single official game! The Professional League of Football (LPF) officially announced the retirement of International Curtea de Arges (financial problems) from the top flight and its replacement with Pandurii, the club that had finished the previous season just below the line.
Even though LPF say that everything went according to regulations, it’s a known fact that International’s owner, Benone Lazar, negotiated his way out and it’s just a happy coincidence that the most interested club was the one entitled to take this free spot. Politehnica Iasi – also relegated last season – and second division club Dacia Mioveni held talks with the man who apparently will get Pandurii’s TV rights from the following season, around 1,4 million Euros, and also demanded the club to transfer the entire team and coaching staff from International to Pandurii! More convenient is an already arranged friendly between the clubs, which will be now used by the former International’s coach Ionut Badea to see both teams at work and select Pandurii’s new set of players.
Pandurii Targu Jiu announced the transfer of Stojan Vranjes, from Borac Banja Luka, who signed a three years long contract with the Romanian first division outfit.
Although it seems like a nice deal for this rather small and unambitious club, as Vranjes (23) played regularly for Banja Luka in the past four seasons and was probably took for almost nothing, being in the last six months of his current contract, I think the reaction of the coach says pretty much everything. “I’ve heard that he’s an attacking midfielder, but I’ll be able to tell you more about him after I see him in a friendly game”, said Liviu Ciobotariu, let me remind you, the team’s coach. I rest my case.
After completing the transfer of Mugurel Buga (32) , who was released by Rapid Bucharest, the Greek side Skoda Xanthi signed another experienced Romanian player. The skipper of Pandurii Targu Jiu, Florin Stanga (31), moves also on a free transfer (had entered the last six months of the current contract, but the board decided to repay the devotion showed by the player, by letting him go without any financial demands).
Buga is a creative forward, technically gifted, who likes to play as a second striker or on the right wing, and, in Romania, has played for just two clubs: FC Brasov (181 games in the league / 41 goals) and Rapid Bucharest (111 / 26). He also has 6 caps for the National Team and 1 goal, but made history for Rapid, becoming the top scorer all-time in European Competitions, with 14 goals scored.
Stanga is a typical defensive midfielder, usually deployed either as anchorman in a 4-1-4-1 system or as a central left midfielder in a flat midfield. Tenacious, hard working, decent technique, quite often scored decisive goals for Pandurii, with surprising runs from the midfield line and appearances in the opposition’s box. Scored 10 goals in 108 appearances for Pandurii, but impressed with his work ethic and consistency, playing in over 80% of Pandurii’s matches in the league in the past three and a half seasons!
Buga and Stanga were also colleagues at FC Brasov, between 2002 and 2004!
Although club owner Adrian Mititelu tried this winter to appoint former NT coach Victor Piturca as general manager, he must find satisfaction in convincing his son, Alexandru Piturca (26), to sign for the club.
The striker comes as a free agent, after a poor half of season in Brasov, where he failed to earn a spot in the first eleven, but after two decent seasons at Pandurii Targu Jiu, where he was important for the team, but never looked like an impressive scorer (9 goals in 51 appearances). His contract with Universitatea will expire in June 2013 and he’ll be paid with 100.000 EUR/season.