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Today’s headlines: Dinamo’s players still wait for November’s wages!

March 1, 2013 Leave a comment
  • caduAfter a violent foul on Bulgarian full-back Milanov, CFR’s captain, Ricardo Cadu, has been suspended for 9 rounds. With his club already making an appeal to have it reduced (very likely to happen), Vaslui threatens to take the Portuguese centre-back to court. “Losing more than 4 teeth means mutilation and he can be charged for that! Our player will miss at least two months of football and we’ll ask for the player to be punished, so we can also get back the wages we’ll be offering to out player during this forced break”, said Ciprian Damian, the president of FC Vaslui.
  • Dinamo’s players have finally received something from the club: another promise that they’ll be paid. One of the main shareholders, Ionut Negoita, the man who is also trying to get full control of the club, met the players and said that all the delayed payments will be solved within two weeks. “We still have to get 70% of the November salaries, plus full wages for December and January”, said veteran striker Ionel Danciulescu.
  • The 17 years old Nicolae Vasile, who made his debut in Rapid’s first eleven in the first official game of the year, has been offered a pro contract. “He had nothing signed with us when playing for our youth teams, but he refused the chance to move to our rivals, Dinamo“, says now with a proud and happy face Constantin Zotta. Someone who would have probably blamed anyone else, in case Rapid would have lost the left back that stepped in place of Vladimir Bozovic, the Montenegro international who left the club after 6 seasons.
  • The cash-strapped Dinamo signed another player (as usual, with two and a half months to prepare, “top” clubs make signings after the league resumed). It’s Alexandru Tudose, once a promising defender, now 25. Played 50 games for Gloria Bistrita in the past three seasons, but also has 10 appearances for arch-rivals Steaua…
  • Universitatea Cluj will play the next two home games behind close doors, a punishment for the fans’ behavior during the game against Steaua, when one support entered the pitch and flares were thrown from the stands. To make up for this, the ultras have asked the club to print tickets anyway, promising to buy them even if they’ll have to watch the matches on TV.

Is Bonetti finally coming around or are we finally admitting he was right all along?

October 8, 2012 1 comment

Under heavy criticism since the start of the season, the Italian coach looks to have finally earned some credit and the quiet atmosphere that comes along with it. It might have been down only to Dinamo’s first winning streak of the season (the Red Dogs only managed a draw in Medias this weekend, after three consecutive wins) but behind this good run of results is a playing style that starts to define a team under construction, with a roster that combines the huge experience of Ionel Danciulescu and Catalin Munteanu and the youth spirit of George Tucudean, Cosmin Matei or Constantin Nica.

Very ugly in the beginning, refusing to play, sitting back and working only to frustrate the opposition, even if it was inferior in terms of squad quality and club size, Dinamo was heavily contested. Supported only by the board and a part of the fans, but at war with the influential agent Victor Becali and most of the journalists, Bonetti deserves credit for his consistency and the hidden work that lead to a surprising transformation of a team that now is quite difficult to play against. The more you try to hurt it, the bigger chances you’ll be the one to suffer, by the quick reaction of a tight unit able to unleash deadly counters. Lacking enough attacking flair and worried about a rather young defense which lost its pillar, Cosmin Moti, to Ludogorets this summer, Bonetti knew that he would have struggled to create a solid offensive team, so he started his work from the back. Using his first matches to put this to the test, he managed to calibrate his team in a matter of weeks, being lucky enough to get some points along the way (including a lucky last minute win against Petrolul). The climax was the impressive display against the revelation Pandurii, a team able to create – and waste – a ton of chances, but which allows you to do the same, if you can absorb this sort of pressure. And Dinamo certainly can, an ability that might see the team struggling to break weak, defensive opposition, but offer an advantage in the derbies that can decide, in the end, who deserves to be up there and who doesn’t.

Undefeated for almost a month now, Dinamo sits now in 5th place with 18 points and looks prepared to earn a European spot this season without glamorous displays, but with determination and hard work. And, comparing to the previous seasons, marked by an unrealistic, cocky approach, this time a place in the top five Romanian clubs will look like an achievement, not as a failure.

* foto from gsp.ro

Round 9 – results, scorers, standings & highlights

September 27, 2012 Leave a comment

FC Vaslui gave a scare to migthy Inter Milano, in a game the Romanians never expected or deserved to win!

August 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Sumudica, celebrating the win versus Steaua, in Liga I. A coach with a vision as limited as his education.

Having to go through the preliminary rounds of both European competitions, most Romanian clubs face between two and four games before making a shameful exit. An entire campaign, they fight like crazy, bending rules and doing everything possible to finish as high as possible in the standings, but when they start playing in Europe, the following season they start complaining about the games that come every three days…

FC Vaslui is yet to win a league title, but is a club that managed to finish every season in a higher position than in the previous one. The lack of European exposure obviously affected their chances to avoid big names this autumn and, after Fenerbahce in the Champions League, things got worse in the Europa League. Inter came to Piatra Neamt and won 2-0 the first leg, a match that Marius Sumudica, Vaslui’s coach wanted to approach using the reserves. An idea that came back to life before last night’s second encounter and Sumudica rested even the excellent goalkeeper, Dani Coman, alongside a number of regular starters, handing debuts to several players against a team lead by the incredible Javier Zanetti, packed with stars, in spite of a 2 goal advantage from the first leg.

Vaslui lead 1-0 and 2-1, playing almost an hour with a one man advantage, but failed to deliver the biggest surprise of the play-off. The game ended with a draw that punished what I consider lack of respect towards the competition and the opposition, but, above all, an amateurish approach that I’ve initially linked with Sumudica. Listening to the team’s manager Daniel Stanciu and the club owner Adrian Porumboiu afterwards, I realized that the coach had their backing to field a weak team against Inter and give up the fight before it began. And all that because three days from now, the title contender FC Vaslui will play away versus newly promoted club, Viitorul Constanta… Pathetic!

 

Romania’s Under 21 defeated by France. With a little help from Emil Sandoi!

November 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Dinamo's Marius Alexe played once again below his ability and couldn't help the Under 21 avoid defeat in Nantes.

If you check Romania’s page in the U21 section of the uefa.com website, you’ll find this: Competition status – active. The right words, after a second consecutive defeat against France without a single goal scored, should be “basically, out!”.

After a 0-2 defeat at home a month ago and already four points behind France and Slovakia, who also had a game in hand, Emil Sandoi decided to go all out for a win – the only result that would have kept us in, or active, as UEFA likes to say – with a brave tactics. A 5-4-1 which you’ll struggle to find even in the Romanian second division, where the coach should spend a lot more time looking for youngsters that play regularly, rather than settle for the usual reserves from the first division teams.

Sandoi also decided to use two right footed players on the left side, Dean Beta and Marius Alexe, reducing to a minimum the lone striker’s chances of getting some decent balls upfront, with Ionut Enache easily kept at bay on the right side, given the little support Cornel Rapa usually offers from the right back position.

Plan A – avoiding to concede and hope for the best upfront (that’d be an own goal scored by the home team) – lasted for almost 40 minutes,  with some good performances from the central midfielders Maxim and Matei, outnumbered, but not yet tired. Unfortunately, Plan B was something that Sandoi never prepared and who could blame him? In fairness, the senior team played quite recently their must-win game against France and, with the score 0-0 towards the end of the match, Piturca’s men were taking no risks and desperately trying to hold on to the useless draw, much to the surprise of their opponents. In that case, why should we ask more from the Under 21, which so often is seen as a team that’s supposed to “prepare” the youngsters for the A national team? That’s exactly what Sandoi is trying to do. For years!

Unirea Urziceni – success can kill you

October 27, 2011 4 comments

They wrote history and now they’re history. The club that collected eight points in the Champions League’s group stage, a record by Romanian football’s not so high standards, has now disappeared, closed down by Dumitru Bucsaru, the ghostly owner who came out of the blue, borrowed a few millions and cashed out as soon as he made some profit. That’s football, these days, in Romania and everywhere else. Just business!

The rise

The club goes back to 1954, when it started life in the Romanian third tier back under the name Aurora Urziceni and never looked ambitious enough to survive at least one division above. Became Unirea Urziceni in 1984 and relegated to the fourth tier, so the Wolves’ first adventure in the second league only began in 2003, one year after a new company called Valahorum SA took over. It was the beginning of a beautiful and surprising adventure, as three years after that moment the small town was putting its name on the map of Liga I.

With under 20,000 souls, Urziceni looked like it was going to enjoy a year among the elite, as nobody could have anticipated that Dumitru Bucsaru, the mysterious businessman behind the club, had not just similar plans with the established clubs, but also the means to achieve them.

The heroes

The excellent Dan Petrescu had every reason to be disappointed when the Romanian Football Federation decided to name Razvan Lucescu as national team coach.

While still in the second division, Unirea Urziceni was regarded as a team close to Dinamo Bucharest, acting as one of the numerous unofficial feeder clubs of the former Militia’s team, from the communist regime. It was no surprise to hear that notorious agents Victor and Ioan ‘Giovani’ Becali were pulling the strings without an official involvement, but this helped the small club get good players and have an easy route towards the first division. Their presence also ensured that the former Romanian international Dan Petrescu will trust the project and embark as a coach with bigger powers than you’ll usually see in Romanian football, with the ex-Chelsea defender keen to make a name for himself as a coach and return to the best league in the world. Given the fact that he even named one of his daughters after the London based club, it was no surprise to hear talk of Romania’s Chelsea. Don’t be fooled, Bucsaru wasn’t there to buy his way to the top, spending massively on players, it was all about Petrescu’s workaholic approach and determination to implement all that he could have adapted from his experience with The Blues.

In fact, Unirea rarely spent sums that would draw attention, as Petrescu – with help from Mihai Stoica, who was in between jobs as Steaua’s director of football – was looking for bargains and players that could help him achieve immediate success. He went for team leaders (signed several former skippers of first division clubs), for established footballers close to their 30s, for guys who wanted to prove themselves once again. Released by Farul Constanta, a certain Iulian Apostol, “famous” for all sorts of accusations published by the press over the years, from being difficult, unprofessional and even linked with some fixed matches, was offered a chance by Petrescu and the little midfielder was so impressive that he soon became a solution even for the national team.

All the changes that took place within this small club were witnessed by one lucky guy: Nicu Epaminonda. The versatile defender managed to make the incredible voyage from the muddy pitches of the Romanian third tier to the grass tickled in midweek by the Champions League’s anthem, playing three matches in the group stage and collecting other four appearances in the Europa League. Now in his 30s, he’s defending the colors of FCM Targu Mures and struggling once again to avoid relegation…

The achievements

Although successful, Unirea was rarely entertaining, so there was a lot of deserved talk about Petrescu’s sublime tactical work, but also praise for the owner’s discretion, something so hard to find nowadays in the Romanian top fight. Sorry, top flight. Reports of the quiet Bucsaru emerged every once in a while, but they so rarely managed to answer the real questions. Who is this guy, actually? Where did he come from? We were going to find out later that Unirea’s boss had loaned around 10 million Euros from none other than Steaua’s owner, Gigi Becali (cousin of the two agents mentioned earlier). But there’s nothing harmful for the competitions when two opponents are involved in such a deal, right?

Wrong, as Steaua could have stopped Unirea from their title race at the very end, when playing away at Urziceni, but settled for a 1-1 draw stating that they’re happy as long as CFR Cluj doesn’t win another league title. Of course they were happy, but only because Unirea and Bucsaru were going to cash in on their Champions League adventure and pay back Becali…

The club needed three years to win the league, after a 10th place finish in the first season and a 5th place and a Romanian Cup final played in the second, and Romania’s Chelsea was going to have a chance to meet with the real one, in the group stage. (Un)Luckily, The Wolves were drawn against Rangers, FC Seville and VfB Stuttgart and managed to collect an impressive tally of eight points, playing their home games in Bucharest in front of crowds that were starting to feel proud and willing to learn how to love Petrescu’s boys.

“Heroes”, this is how Laszlo Boloni (former national team coach, currently in charge of PAOK) called them, after an incredible 4-1 win on Ibrox, two 1-1 draws at home against Stuttgart and the Scottish giants, and a 1-0 at home versus Seville, and a finish in third place only after a 1-3 defeat in Germany, in the last game of the group stage. Frustrated, but proud, the team was going to make another attempt to win the league and return to the biggest stage. Without spending anything on new players, Unirea was going to fail and Petrescu’s departure to Kuban, halfway through the following season, was the first important signal that not only the Champions League lights were going out for good. The owner was thinking already to pull the plug. Quietly, like he did everything else in football.

The fall

The club’s last season in the top flight has been a struggle and a horrific show. Bucsaru agreed to clear some of the debt towards Gigi Becali by allowing several key players to move to the Bucharest club. Others, unpaid for months by the man who had recently seen over 17 million Euros enter the club’s account from UEFA, asked the Professional Football League to have their deals interrupted and moved to other first division clubs. So much for the heroes, right? They were all replaced by youngsters taken on loan from Steaua and Dinamo, the clubs that had supported Unirea in different ways throughout this journey, who tried to give their best and avoid relegation, but the feeling was that, even in case of such a feat, this club was going to leave Liga I. It became clear in the spring that, once again, this team was aiming to surprise everyone, leaving not just the first division, but also Romanian football. For good.

Unpaid debt towards the state budget was going to draw the authorities’ intervention and in April anyone interested would have been able to buy the team’s massage tables, TV screens from inside the “Tineretului” stadium or even the two goals that had seen so much Liga I action in the past few years. Bucsaru had no reason to move a muscle. Does anyone think that the prize money from the Champions League was sent into the club’s bank account?

The villains

Thinking of Bucsaru? You shouldn’t. He came in, took advantage of all the financial freedom offered by a poorly organized and corruption-friendly football world, using somebody else’s money not just to build some notoriety, but also to make some profit. He has found both financial and sporting success and decided to retire while still on profit, in a perfect environment: a town unable to support a professional football club and a Romanian football willing to accept a fake Abramovich, as long as he’s honest enough to return the money borrowed from the Glazers.

And one lonely wolf

"The Lonely Wolf", looking for a new team, waiting for another miracle.

Regrets? Too few to mention. We already have another small club in the Champions League, Otelul fighting Manchester United, Benfica and Basel in the group stage, and a young coach, Dorinel Munteanu, none other the most capped player in Romania’s national team, who is trying to make a name for himself and return to his dream club, FC Koln.

Unirea left behind an excellent record and a story unlikely to be repeated soon, and just one disgruntled fan. The one man who followed the team everywhere, sitting often alone in the entire stand reserved for Unirea’s supporters, calling himself “The Lonely Wolf”, who stated that will start looking for another team to cheer for. The question is: does anyone think that, even if there was a full pack, things would have gone different for Unirea?

It’s all in Pantilimon’s hands now – not a bad situation for a goalkeeper, right?

August 7, 2011 4 comments

After Bogdan Stancu’s 6 million Euros move to Galatasaray in the previous winter mercato, another Romanian club is involved in a major transfer deal this summer, as Costel Pantilimon moves to Manchester City in a loan deal with an undisclosed buying clause in 2012, depending on his season with the Citizens.

"Gulliver" gets his shot to make it. Big deal for the big lad, but not necessarily for Politehnica Timisoara too...

Ok, Stancu’s move was fishy, because he was probably worth half that sum, but we would have not moved a muscle if Pantilimon’s transfer fee/conditions were made public. It was Manchester City, the mercato champions of recent years… The surprise of an undisclosed fee was even bigger, as Politehnica Timisoara was also involved, a club that used to impress with its transparency being partially financed by the city’s local council. Put this two together and add the information that Udinese was ready to sign Pantilimon this summer in a permanent deal and you’ll get the image of a deal that would have made City’s sheik look like they’re running out of money. Or, even worse, start to look a bit cheap!

Timisoara’s usually vocal owner, Marian Iancu, limited himself to the following announcement: “The club still co-owns the goalkeeper, as we aim to earn as much as possible from his transfer. The longer it takes to complete the deal, the more money we’ll be making and we’re talking in millions.”

Basically, it is all in the hands of the big lad who was impressing only in size at second division outfit Aerostar Bacau, six years ago. Timisoara’s current number two, Gheorghe Chivorchian, who used to run another club from Bacau, FCM, decided to “splash” 50.000 Euros, at Gheorghe Hagi’s request, but apparently made what now looks like a very costly mistake when negotiating the deal: accepted a 30% sell on clause, which might just be one of the reasons Timisoara makes the transfer to City look so complicated and mysterious.

The Viola outfit probably got lot less from Manchester than what Udinese was ready to pay upfront, but certainly puts its hopes in Pantilimon’s chances to fulfill his potential at a top club. Problem is, Roberto Mancini doesn’t like to rest his number 1 and a look at the previous season shows that England’s number one played 38 games in the Premier League, but also 8 in the FA Cup and another 9 in a Europa League campaign that would have made Harry Redknapp put the gloves on himself, in an attempt to avoid fatigue and injuries to such a vital member of the squad.

So, does Pantilimon really have a chance to impress and earn Timisoara more money in his one season loan with an undisclosed buying clause? I guess not, but on a personal level he should definitely benefit, training with the best and entering a regime that will do him more good than 100 more official appearances in Liga I.

He still needs to improve his ability to deal with high balls, yes, at 2,02 m, Pantilimon has “a short leash” and his focus needs to be a lot better, which is something a bit different than his desire to deliver in the big games – see the excellent performances for Romania on “Parc des Princes” or for Timisoara in the European ties against Shakthar Donetsk and, no coincidence, Manchester City. He wasn’t always convincing for Timisoara in Liga I, which lead to a lost battle with Steaua’s Ciprian Tatarusanu for the number one spot in Romania’s national team in the last year, so this transfer comes at a possibly critical moment of his development. If he goes up or down from here, it’s all up to him, but I reckon the decent/hard working goalie will keep his feet on the ground, the eyes on the ball and catch this big chance, not palm it away.

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