Back in September, I made a Top 10 list of the Liga 1 exports in the summer of 2013. A list topped by Vlad Chiriches, who just had set a new record in terms of transfer fees with his move to Tottenham, a list that now, with half of season gone, deserves a second look. So let me walk you through the first five months spent by 10 ex-Liga 1 “stars” at their new clubs, in stronger leagues, competitive and professional environments, under pressure. Those who love to promote the Romanian league should look away :)
The most valuable, both in terms of quality and price, turned out to be also the one who delivers from the start. Vlad Chiriches, the ex Steaua defender and current national team captain, made a bright start in the toughest league, in an ambitious team packed with quality players, winning over the fans and making commentators like Clive Tyldesley say recently that he’s “a fine advert for Romanian immigrant labor”. Irony aside, he is indeed. And it’s enough to look below him in my Top 10 list…
With the exception of Portugese right back Ivo Pinto, who impressed with Dinamo Zagreb (although I’d place the Croatian Prva HNL below our Liga 1 in terms of competitiveness), there is nobody else who made the switch easy, with good results also on the pitch, not just in their bank accounts.
Ok, signing Denis Alibec was a gamble from Bologna, as the striker revived by Gheorghe Hagi and his club, Viitorul Constanta, disappointed upon his return to Serie A. He featured for just 2 minutes in the first part of the season, against mighty Juventus, but that was just a desperate use of a forward with good feet, but a mind that still looks unable to focus on football. Two other Romanian players moved to Italy last summer and both need (and unlike Alibec who is close to a transfer to Astra Giurgiu) and will have more time to adjust and prove themselves. Alexe struggles with struggling Sassuolo, featuring 6 times in the league, but just once as a starter, while Nica got a red card in his second and last appearance in Serie A for Atalanta.
Life isn’t easier in Ligue 1 either, where Dan Nistor and Aurelian Chitu started just once in half of season, each with a handful of appearances as substitutes for Evian and Valenciennes, respectively. The biggest disappointment though came from Raul Rusescu, who joined FC Sevilla as the top scorer of the Romanian league, but already left La Liga, moving on loan to Sporting Braga after a total of 7 appearances and 3 goals, but only 64 mintues of football in the Spanish top flight…
With Fatai unable to feature more for Club Brugge, in spite of a bright start (scored against Anderlecht in his first game), and Herea looking average in a league that, in theory, should have allowed him to impress, we can draw the line: just 2 out of 10 players stepped into their new clubs and claimed a place in the first eleven.
Not at all surprising is the fact that we’re talking about two of the most expensive deals. It might look strange that a proven scorer like Rusescu failed at Sevilla, but in fairness it was the Spanish club who got it wrong and rushed to gamble of a player that didn’t look ready for them! Saying that the Romanian was going to replace Alvaro Negredo was a (good) joke and the 25 years old’s signature was followed by those of Carlos Bacca and Kevin Gameiro. And while these two got playing time, Rusescu was following an intense fitness regime to help him lose weight and gain the pace and agility needed in La Liga…
On the disappointing side I’d put Alexe’s struggle, given his intelligence and first team experience, but he did join a newly promoted club and he’s the type of forward who can “enjoy” quite long periods of indifferent form, risks both himself and the club should have taken into account. Hopefully, he’ll have the time and the opportunities to come good, just like Nica, who has the fortune of being in a youth-friendly club…
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Tottenham Hotspur is either the club or the kind of club that is currently in talks with ASSE, according to a fresh statement released on TV by Nicolita’s agent, Traian Gherghisan. “In December, two big clubs came after him, but Saint-Etienne’s president refused. Now, he will probably accept, as we’re talking about one of the important teams from the Premier League.”
Bought from Steaua a year ago for 700.000 Euros, Banel Nicolita adjusted really well to Ligue 1 and could now generate a profit of more than 2 million Euros. The Romanian right winger, now 27, has featured in 19 matches for the French outfit, scoring three goals and providing 6 assists, coping really well with the physical side of the game – one of his strongest points. Gifted with a great engine, work-ethic and a fantastic humble attitude, he’s not good enough, in my opinion, in terms of skill and vision to make such a huge step, so I could see him playing for a mid-table team from the Premier League, not at a higher level. But I’ve been wrong before… :-)
- After Roberto De Zerbi (30) and Felice Piccolo (26), CFR Cluj signed a third Italian player, in the very last day of the winter mercato. Davide Bottone (23) comes from Torino and will play for CFR until the end of the season. Bottone is a central midfielder, with one cap for the Italian U21, and has the chance to become the first Italian to have played in Liga I, as De Zerbi is stil out and Piccolo wasn’t even on the bench for the match against Unirea Urziceni.
- Rapid announced the signing of Diego Ciz (28), who has a booked flight to Bucharest and is expected to sign a contract until the summer. Ciz, who can play as a full back on both sides, comes as a backup solution for left back Vladimir Bozovic (28), but could become a good replacement for Cristian Sapunaru (25), on the right, in case the ban received in Portugal will keep him from playing for Rapid. The defender from Uruguay belongs to Olimpia and comes in Romania on a loan deal that can be turned into a definitive transfer next summer. Read more…
- FC Timisoara, Kuban Krasnodar and Gheorghe Bucur (29) shook hands and completed a deal that has been negotiated right after Dan Petrescu’s appointment as head coach of the Russian club. Timisoara gets 1,8 mil. EUR in exchange of one of the most prolific strikers of Liga I in recent years (89 goals in 194 matches), while the player should earn 600.000 EUR for the following three seasons.
- Unirea Alba Iulia completed the loan of Serbian centre-forward Nemanja Jovanovic (25), from FC Vaslui. The 1,91 cm front man will stay in Alba Iulia until the summer, where he will fight for a place in the first eleven with fellow countryman Rade Veljovic (23), who’s on loan from CFR Cluj. Jovanovic is a tall and athletic centre-forward who always showed potential, but never found his place. The nomadic striker will play for the seventh club since his arrival in Romania, in 2003!
- Cosmin Barcauan (31, central defender, from OFI) and Ciprian Vasilache (26, left midfielder, un-attached) agreed to sign for Ceahlaul Piatra Neamt contracts that will expire at the end of the season.
I’d rather think of Chivu! And wish him to recover quickly and completely.
Case and post closed!
- Gheorghe Grozav (19) has become officially a Standard Liege player. The promising winger signed a three years long deal on January 20 and the Belgian club has the option to extend it for another two seasons.
- Steaua’s skipper and long-serving player (eight consecutive seasons for the red and blue outfit) Sorin Ghionea (30) rejoins former coach Oleg Protasov at FC Rostov. He agreed to a three years long contract and will earn 300.000 EUR per season at the Russian club.Rostov played just 100.000 EUR for his transfer.
- CFR Cluj and Andre Leao (24) parted ways and the Portuguese central midfielder will join Pacos Ferreira, after agreeing to a three years long contract. Bought from Beira-Mar in 2007 for 250.000 EUR, he was recently released on a free transfer, after collecting only 25 matches in the first division for the Romanian club.
- Rapid Bucharest completed the loan deal of Latvian striker Edgars Gauracs (21). The Romanian club paid 50.000 EUR and has an option to make the deal permanent for another 450.000 EUR in the summer.
The title might turn out to be true, but right now it’s just a word game, because “wonderful” can be translated in Romanian in “grozav”. And Grozav, Gheorghe Grozav to be precise, will move to Liege, in a deal that will cost the Belgian club 350.000 EUR plus 15% of the next transfer fee (but not less than 400.000 EUR!). The forward has already been tested by Romanian coach Laszlo Boloni last summer and proably has been monitorred eversince.
Grozav (19) has been promoted by Unirea Alba Iulia last season and helped the club achieve promotion, playing this year in sixteen out of seventeen matches in the first division, scoring two goals in the proces. He’s a talented youngster, right footed, good dribbling and technique, who likes to play as a winger and joins the coach who promoted a lot Cristiano Ronaldo when he was at Sporting Lisbon. Rest assured, I won’t go with this any further ;-).