Dario Bonetti’s first game in charge wasn’t great. Dinamo lost against Gaz Metan Medias and the last 10 minutes were really difficult, as the home side managed to make it 2-1 and needed one more goal to overturn the 0-1 defeat suffered in the first leg.
The Italian decided to make small adjustments to the 4-4-2 that had failed to deliver under Liviu Ciobotariu, after some impressive displays and results in the first half of season. First of all, he added a second defensive midfielder, Dorel Stoica, who did three good things: 1. protected the back four well enough even if he didn’t look in top physical shape (both goals came from set plays); 2. allowed Djakaridja Kone to act higher up the pitch and use his energy and muscle to block the opposition’s build-up strategy earlier than usual; 3. scored Dinamo’s only goal, decisive for the step to the final. This lead to the usual playmaker, Catalin Munteanu, who also suffered an obvious dip in form, to move on the left wing, where he found more space and time to dwell on the ball and look for options, as well as send some quality crosses – something nobody else does at the moment for Dinamo.
The most important move made by Bonetti was the use of Marius Alexe in a different position, who moved from left midfielder to second striker – a role that (in my opinion too) suits him better, making him less predictable in movement and allowing him to get more scoring opportunities.
Even though it had little effect in last night’s game, this decision can have major implications not just for the young player who has been in disappointing form in the season he was supposed to prove himself too good for Liga I and ready to move abroad, but also for the team. If he will keep on playing there, there will be little to no space for Ionel Danciulescu, the veteran striker who is the club’s second scorer this term and the active player with the highest number of goals scored in the Romanian first division. This isn’t a surprise, as Danciulescu, who has scored over 200 goals in his Liga I career, had been forced by the same Italian coach to leave Dinamo a few years ago and move to Hercules Alicante, in the Spanish second division, a club he has helped at that time to gain promotion in La Liga.
A year ago, I wrote this about Cosmin Matei, when the kid signed for Steaua Bucharest a five years long deal. He managed to stay there for a year, which I have to rate as an unexpected performance, featuring in five games in the league and collecting some minutes in Europe, as well. Now, he was sold to Astra Ploiesti, where he agreed on another five years long deal. Knowing the coach, Tibor Selymes, he could find it even harder to play over here…
He was meant to be the next big thing. After Hagi, obviously, and following the recent on-the-pitch footsteps of Adrian Mutu. He was not, failing badly in Italy and looking completely lost after the return from Serie A, where he was too poor to play, to Liga I, where he thought that he was way too good. Well, at 27, he’s the leading goalscorer, with 16 goals, and the man who keeps FC Timisoara in the title race. Still promising, right?
Born in Constanta, where Hagi, The King, had stepped into this world with his magical left foot, with the same ethnical roots (luckily, we don’t have only gypsies over here), Zicu was immediately spotted by the same guys that stood beside Gica in his playing career: the Becali brothers.
Ioan “Giovani” Becali had moved Adrian Mutu to Italy, back in 2000, convincing Massimo Moratti to invest heavily in a forward that was a goalscoring machine for Dinamo – the opposition was usually very kind with the Red Dogs’ forwards back then, as always! – and had enough influence to present Zicu to Inter’s owner at a very young age and with no real background.
In 2003, Ianis went to Milano, but left the impression that he was there to protect his valuable ankles, an attitude he simply failed to shake-off since then, no matter the name of his club, the importance of a game or the fans’ abuse, who, after his latest return to Dinamo, turned against the talented attacking midfielder.
Zicu looked again like a football player only at his third consecutive loan spell, in Rapid’s shirt, but Dinamo was the club he signed for in 2007, after Inter lost enough money and an incredible amount of patience. Three years of torment followed and he fell completely out of favor with Dinamo’s dismayed fans, who had every reason, at that time, to ask for a change of approach. He went asking for a move away and Timisoara (who’s a bitter rival, in the stands, but a good partner when it comes to transfers) stepped up and invested half of million euros, winning the race for his signature with Rapid.
Money very well spent by the Viola, who are now leading the standings, with eight rounds to go, and have in Zicu the player that makes the difference. With 16 goals in 21 appearances, he’s the best goalscorer in a league that was at risk to award the golden boot award to Bogdan Stancu, the striker who left to Galatasaray in the winter break. He is also responsible for Timisoara’s fantastic ability to come from behind: Dusan Uhrin’s men have done it an amazing 15 times this season and are currently undefeated, after 26 matches, with 13 wins and 13 draws in their account.
What’s interesting and also quite hard to explain is that Zicu’s attitude on the pitch hasn’t changed. He’s the same creative player looking for the fancy touch and desperate to avoid contact, plays in the same favorite role, on the left side of the attack, with absolutely no interest to help in defense, and for a team that feels the pressure to deliver results, given the fantastic support this club has when playing at home. Not to mention that, on a personal level, he’s not doing great either, losing his beloved mother two months ago, a moment that he wants to remind after each goal scored.
Nobody, really, saw this coming. A player who was only used to whine is now showing the properties of a good wine. But maybe this is where Zicu lived up to the initial expectations: he’s the sort of footballer able to surprise you, after all…
Gaman and Barboianu can be considered free players. Universitatea’s boss, fined and suspended for 6 months!
The third meeting that judged the case filed by the two Universitatea Craiova players ended with a favorable result for Valerica Gaman and Stefan Barboianu. The two defenders are no longer under contract with Universitatea, although the club has the right to appeal this decision in the next five days.
With Gaman missing out on a move to Vitesse Arnhem, a few weeks ago, but still in demand both in Ukraine and Romania, the negotiations that already took place are expected to enter the final stage. Barboianu, a versatile full-back and former U21 national team player, shouldn’t have too much trouble in finding quickly another team either. Still, I doubt that Craiova’s owner, Adrian Mititelu, who was fined and suspended for half of year, after his repeated attacks in the media, will accept defeat without another fight. If he was able to present five years long contracts signed by the players a day before they left the training camp without notice, in the middle of the night, I’m sure he’ll think of something else and try to turn things in his favor. And don’t think it’s impossible, we’re in Romania!
Razvan Lucescu has announced the squad that will fly to Cyprus, for the last two tests ahead of the vital game against Bosnia, that will be played in Zenica, on the 26th of March:
- Goalkeepers: Pantilimon (Poli Timisoara), Tatarusanu (Steaua), Lung Jr. (Universitatea Craiova);
- Defenders: Sapunaru (FC Porto), Rapa (Otelul Galati), Maftei (CFR Cluj), Tamas (WBA), Gardos (Steaua), Papp (FC Vaslui), M. Constantin (Rapid), Rat (Shakthar), Radu (Lazio), Salageanu (Otelul Galati);
- Midfielders: Torje (Dinamo), Roman (Rapid), Alexa (Poli Timisoara), Apostol (Unirea Chiajna), Muresan (CFR Cluj), Florescu (Alania), Ilie (Otelul Galati), Zicu (Poli Timisoara), Deac (Schalke 04);
- Forwards: D. Niculae (AS Monaco), Stancu (Galatasaray), Bucur (Kuban), Sburlea (Rapid), Marica (Stuttgart), L. Ganea (Dinamo).
With Chivu allowed to stay with Inter, as he had the busiest schedule of all, during this start of year, there’s an obvious tendency to test some very promising youngsters, like Papp, Gardos and Rapa, but the problem is that they could be sollutions where Romania boasts the most quality players: in defense.
Taking a look at the called-up midfielders, we can’t spot a single new face, with Lucescu sticking to the same group, even though there was an obivous lack of quality, especially in the “creative department”. The only central midfielder with some playmaking ability is Apostol, who left Steaua as a free player and will feature for Unirea in the second half of the season, a relegation threatened club, as he was unable to find himself a team abroad! In attack, there’s recognition for Ganea’s development and encouragement for Rapid’s Sburlea, who has been showing some promise for more than two years, but still needs to turn into a goalscorer. We also notice the return of Gigel Bucur, who was considered useless as long as Kuban Krasnodar played second league football in Russia, which apparently won’t happen to Florescu, who still gets the nod, even though he recently relegated with Alania. Strange stuff…
Vitesse’s official website announces the imminent transfer of Valerica Gaman, a key player in Romania’s U21 and Universitatea Craiova’s skipper. The elegant centre-back, who is one of the most promising players in Liga I at the moment, apparently agreed terms and is expected to pass a medical test in Arnhem, with Vitesse confident to close the deal in the next few days. The rumored transfer fee is around 3 million Euros, but that won’t guarantee a quick and smooth agreement, as the player’s situation is quite confusing and the Dutch club could be in for a real and (unexpected?) adventure…
Right after Victor Piturca’s departure, Gaman and a colleague, Barboianu, left from Universitatea’s training camp in the middle of the night and refused to make any public appearance or comment since then. The surprising gesture, which normally would have caused lots of trouble for the two players (who were still under contract with Universitatea!), has some interesting background, though. Apparently, as a guarantee that Piturca will get his money back from Craiova (you can read more on the manager who played the owner’s role for a few months here), the former manager received three signed pieces of paper that represent the club’s agreement on three transfers, with the name and the details to be filled by Piturca, who should also get the respective transfer fees.
Of course, Adrian Mititelu, the owner, states that the papers cannot be used and has asked Piturca to have a talk for more than a week, saying that he has a good offer for Gaman and that the current situation can affect the deal. So, my question is: with who is Vitesse “about to close” the deal? Universitatea Craiova or Victor Piturca? I’m afraid that unless Vitesse can talk with both parties involved in this row, the Eredivisie side might pay a lot of money not just for a very promising player, but also for an unwanted set of problems…
PS In the past, Universitatea Craiova sold two other players to Holland and it proved to be the right move for both Gheorghe “Gica” Popescu (PSV Eindhoven) and Cristi Chivu (Ajax Amsterdam)!
UPDATE: As expected, the war began and it is now clear that whoever offered Gaman to Vitesse trusted Victor Piturca’s papers and plans. Universitatea Craiova just released a statement saying that Gaman is not available for a transfer, that he is under contract until June 2015 and that there is not a single document saying that he can leave the club or that he is available on a free transfer. Universitatea also says that Vitesse was also informed of this earlier today, reminding them that speaking with a player without the club’s permission is forbidden and threatened to take further action against both the player and Vitesse, if they don’t stop negotiating!
The first half of season hasn’t been that bad for Dinamo, who lies just outside the places that guarantee a spot in Europa League, but the club was a mess. With less and less support from the fans, increasing financial problems, after the loss of three important shareholders, and a team that Ioan Andone was struggling to control, discipline and unite, the Red Dogs were barking, but not threatening to bite as hard as the other title challengers.
It was vital to act swiftly during the winter break and what the club did might sound suicidal, for the current season’s goals: 9 players were sent away, either on loan or for good, with the following considered regular starters and good enough, in theory, for any team in Liga I:
- Juan Pablo Garat - 27, central defender, 10 games / 1 goal, released;
- Ousmane N’Doye – 32, defensive midfielder, 13 games / 5 goals, sold to Astra Ploiesti;
- Adrian Cristea – 27, playmaker, 17 games / 7 goals, sold to Universitatea Cluj;
- Florin Bratu – 31, forward, 7 games / 2 goals (on loan to Levski), free transferred to Gaz Metan;
- Andrei Cristea – 26, forward, 11 games / 4 goals, sold to Karlsruhe;
- Marius Niculae – 29, striker, 16 games / 3 goals, loaned to Kavala (with buying option);
It only looks suicidal… First of all, because the title was an unrealistic target, given the distance that separates Dinamo from he current leaders, but mainly due to the high number and good quality of the other contenders, with Rapid, Poli Timisoara and FC Vaslui convinced that this is their season. Secondly, in spite of the names and the stats from above, the red and white outfit can still count on some of the finest attacking prospects in Romania, with the likes of Gabriel Torje, Marius Alexe and Liviu Ganea relishing the chance to feature on a regular basis and support the excellent player and professional that is Ionel Danciulescu. There will also be some relief among those responsible in delivering the wages, as the budget will suffer a serious cut and probably allow the entire team to start getting paid on time, on a regular basis.
The only thing Dinamo must do now is to use this month as a foundation for a strategy that has always delivered and keep on betting on young, ambitious players. But, with so much time left before the end of the winter mercato, the recent signing of a 31 years old from the bottom-placed team and the club’s willingness to test unknown foreign players, who are closer to their 30′ than their 20’s, we might be only witnessing Dinamo’s desperation to get rid of the high-earners and intention to buy some more time to prepare another one or two important sales…
Appreciated for his football knowledge, eye for players, ability to ease Gigi Becali’s harsh words into Steaua’s dressing room and especially protect the club from outside attacks, Mihai Stoica received a deserved warm welcome at his return from Unirea Urziceni. The chaos within the club packed with Becali’s relatives and obedient professionals was going to end and Steaua was going to at least leave the impression of the most professional and well organized club in the country. Not to mention look like it has a strategy for more than the current season and all the mercato activity will turn into profit and sporting success, something everyone witnessed at Unirea.
The winter break arrived and there are some strange things going on at the Bucharest side, who gave up easily on the experienced Bulgarian midfielder Angelov and the prolific Greek centre-forward Kapetanos (who, for the record, spent part of last summer in South Africa, enjoying some World Cup football), considering their wages too high and that the squad provides enough quality replacements. Two debatable arguments, as 250.000 Euros/season isn’t a big salary for a title contender/Champions League team wannabe, while the use of the mentioned alternative solutions will make the bench look short and unreliable.
Even more strange is Steaua’s approach when it comes to buying players, with the first important signing a highly rated right back, you’ve probably never heard of, if you’re leaving outside Romania. No, it’s not Otelul’s Cornel Rapa, available for under one million Euros, who recently made his debut for the senior national team and is topping the standings at club level, showing impressive consistency at the tender age of 21, having played for 90 minutes in all the 18 games of the season. We’re talking about Gabriel Matei, also 21, who will only be taking Rapa’s place in the U21 and is hoping to avoid relegation for his second consecutive season in Liga I. A player with a total of 33 matches at this level, which determined Steaua to pay an incredible 600.000 Euros and promise Pandurii either 20% of his next transfer fee or another half of million Euros. Of course, the kid, who will continue to fight to avoid relegation until the summer, is tipped for greatness, but I invite you to put your imagination on hold for a second and look at it like a piece of business:
1. How often Romanian clubs manage to sell a player for over 1 million Euros?
2. Why did Steaua rush to finalize the deal now, if the agreement states that the player will stay Pandurii for the rest of the season?
3. What could have raised Matei’s value until the summer so highly, that a deal would have become impossible under the current terms?
4. Wouldn’t have been as many chances to see a possible increase from a few more U21 caps compensated or even outdone by a possible relegation from Pandurii, at the end of the season?
Desperate to keep a clean sheet. Trained to destroy, not to build. Hoping for a lucky counter or a well taken free kick. This is Romania. At any level. From the senior national team to the Under 0. We have it in our genes and we’re not making the smallest effort to change our mentality. And you can see it at club level. Where we’re defending. Destroying. Hoping for the counter-attacks that bring once in a lifetime 2-0 wins on Olimpico. And we still wonder why we have slim chances to see Romania at a final tournament in this lifetime…
For those not very familiar with the team in yellow, the weekend was looking promising on Friday evening, when Romania faced England, in front of a packed stadium in Norwich. Sandoi’s eleven that featured one keeper, five natural defenders and five natural midfielders, was trying to switch from a 4-5-1 to a 4-3-3, as the team got hold of possession, being probably the first in the world to try and use three forwards, without having at least one on the field! Read more…
Otelul’s promising start of the season has just become magnificent. If Arles-Avignon had gained promotion in Ligue I last season, motivated by an article that tipped them for a quick return in the French third division pinned to the dressing-room wall, then Dorinel Munteanu should find useful this Top 5, even Steaua has one game in hand and will probably use it tonight, to top the standings.
Now that you’ve seen this and have been busy watching real professional football since 2006, when the club’s new ownership, Mittal Steel, was announcing its’ intent to build “a Romanian Chelsea” (a project Dan Petrescu was going to implement, in the meantime, with Unirea Urziceni, using though just a couple of million Euros), you might look at the standings and say “Now that’s an example of money well spent!”. Well, keep those words and use them even if the wealthy Lakshmi Mittal has invested in Otelul Galati less than a tenth of the fortune spent when his daughter got married. The club that was going to buy the cream of the crop in Romania and maybe even land several big names from abroad was left on a survival budget on the hands of the experienced Marius Stan. And the president did a wonderful job, proving his outstanding ability to spot and recruit players from the lower leagues, who went on to become regulars not just at club level, but also solutions for the youth national teams. Ok, he did worse when it came to signing players from abroad, his search for a top goalkeeper, for example, bringing in Liga I top “entertainers”, but even this ended last season, when Otelul landed for peanuts the consistent Branko Grahovac. Read more…