He now wears the team’s armband, but is the first to think of a move away from Urziceni. He’s Vasile Maftei, the versatile defender that still plays an important role in Razvan Lucescu’s plans with the national team, who is desperately trying to save his career, as the last season’s runners-up are sinking without trace.
When the team manager left Unirea he promised Maftei that he’d be the first player transferred and Mihai Stoica proved to be a man of his word. Signed by Steaua Bucuresti, he did everything he could to make this happen: asked the owner to prepare the cash, convinced the coach that he needs such a player and even tried to discuss with the hard-core fans that the former captain of their arch-rivals Rapid will be giving 100% in training and on the pitch, maybe not for the red and blue colors, but at least for the money. Stoica stumbled at the last and most challenging hurdle, in spite of his popularity with the fans, who cannot forget that this was a player that got so carried away when playing against Steaua that he loved the show it through large gestures and not very nice words. The final call came today, from the club’s owner – always desperate to regain the public’s support – who stated that a player cannot be transferred, if the fans give the “go-away” instead of the “go-ahead” signal.
I honestly believe that Maftei feels the same thing like his friend, Mihai Stoica: relief. The problem is that the player has now lost the advantage in the mind-games played with his former and beloved club, Rapid, who would have had some problems if they had allowed the move to Steaua to happen without at least a formal bid, for the return of their prodigal son. Now, he only has to wait and hope that Rapid will sell some players this winter, to get the needed 400.000 Euros for his transfer and also afford at least another 15.000 Euros/month. I, for one, cannot wonder what in the world are his agents doing in the meantime. Judging by his credentials, it should rarely get any easier than this…
Name: Vasile Maftei
Position(s): centre-back, right back, defensive midfielder
Curent value (transfermarkt.de): 1.700.000 Euros
Current asking price: 400.000 Euros
Liga I career: 254 matches / 11 goals
This season: 13 matches / 1 goal
National team: 12 matches / 1 goal
VASILE MAFTEI – Unirea Urziceni
- Rui Duarte – FC Brasov
- Eder Bonfim – FC Timisoara
- Florin Popete – Pandurii Targu Jiu
- Anthony da Silva “Tony” – CFR Cluj
My view: Excellent example for Romania’s lack of options at right back in the national team, with a winner who has been playing as a centre-back until two years ago and the only other Romanian in the top five – a below average 32 years old like Popete, who relegated with Pandurii at the end of the season. In such a mediocre company – Tony could have done more, but has rarely played for CFR, while Dananae from Universitatea Craiova was out for a long, long time, after a severe injury -, Maftei fully deserves to take this.
My choices: I’m honestly surprised to see FC Vaslui’s Milanov missing the top five (affected by Gazeta’s marks and the bonus system that involves the team’s performances, not just the player’s), who has been very consistent, has adjusted immediately after his transfer and was as impressive on the right, as he was on the opposite flank. Rapid had two good right backs, Helder and Sapunaru (why in the world was this guy left out from the national team?), I would have liked to see more Craiova’s Barboianu on this position, as he was used too much as a defensive midfielder, but everyone’s mad this summer about Otelul’s Cornel Rapa.
Note: the top five is taken from Gazeta Sporturilor, a newspaper that uses the service of Digital Soccer Project. These results are based on a series of specific criteria for each position, include only players that have collected at least 1.200 minutes on the pitch in the past season and the only subjective part of the analysis consists in the average marks received by the newspaper’s writers.
With Cristian Chivu, Razvan Rat and Stefan Radu out injured, Razvan Lucescu offered Gabriel Tamas (transferred in January to West Bromwich Albion) the chance to reclaim his spot in the team. Another surprise is the absence of the first two choices for the goalkeeper postion, Lobont and Coman, but, looking at the likes of Gaman, Sepsi, Florescu or Deac, it’s obvious that the National Team coach is trying to evaluate some of the promising, yet established players in the first division. Here’s is the full list of players:
- Goalkeepers: Mircea Bornescu (Rapid, 29), Costel Pantilimon (FC Timisoara, 23)
- Defenders: Cristian Panin (CFR Cluj, 31), Vasile Maftei (Unirea Urziceni, 29), Gabriel Tamas (WBA, 26), Dorin Goian (Palermo, 29), Mirel Radoi (Al-Hilal, 28), Valerica Gaman (Universitatea Craiova, 21), Laszlo Sepsi (FC Timisoara, 23), Mihai Nesu (FC Utrecht, 27)
- Midfielders: Banel Nicolita (Steaua, 25), Mihai Roman (FC Brasov, 25), Iulian Apostol (Unirea Urziceni, 29), Paul Codrea (Siena, 28), Tiberiu Ghioane (Dynamo Kiew, 28), George Florescu (FC Midjtyland, 25), Ciprian Deac (CFR Cluj, 24)
- Forwards: Gigel Bucur (Kuban, 29), Andrei Cristea (Dinamo Bucharest, 25), Ciprian Marica (VFB Stuttgart, 24), Daniel Niculae (Auxerre, 27), Marius Niculae (Dinamo Bucharest, 28).
Update: Lucescu decided that the third keeper will be Steaua’s Ciprian Tatarusanu (22), while the injured Iulian Apostol has been replaced by his colleague from Unirea Razvan Paduretu (28).
Unirea Urziceni, Romanian title holders, the team already considered Liverpool’s marked victim, in the UEFA Europa League double. Here are some (hopefully) interesting facts, statistics and personal views, ahead of the first leg, that will be played at Anfield on the 18th of February:
- Unirea is, at this point, an unpredictable team even for Romanian fans and pundits. The departure of Dan Petrescu (THE guy who invented the team that won the title and collected eight points in the Champions League group stage) and the appointment of Ronny Levy as head coach should have brought some changes in the team’s tactics, mentality and approach. Usually a very, very disciplined team, with an organized game and paths followed by the players with their eyes closed, Unirea could and should have changed partially their style under the Israeli coach.
- Although Romanians haven’t seen a single friendly game played this winter, press reports suggest a switch from the usual 4-1-4-1 system to a 4-2-3-1. Without a single player bought during the mercato period (and three departed, striker Danalache, who wasn’t among the players registered for the Champions League, and wingers Tiberiu Balan and Dacian Varga, both dangerous offensive weapons and regular starters in the first half of season), Levy will try to use wisely a decent roster by Romanian standards. Besides Varga and Balan, Levy will be without the solid anchorman Ricardo, who turned up very late after the winter break, and he will also have to leave out one of the team’s best players, the Argentinian Brandan (who feels jaded after a missed transfer to Stuttgart), so, most likely the starting eleven will look like this: Arlauskis – Maftei, Galamaz, Bruno Fernandes, Bordeanu – Paraschiv, Apostol – Semedo, Onofras, Frunza – Bilasco. So, even those tempted to say that Unirea looks pretty much the same way like before, the fact is that Levy will be without the best left back, the best anchorman and the best wingers. So, if the Romanian champions are to stand any chance, he’d better have produced some tactical miracles.
- Latest news give Portuguese right winger Semedo little chances to feature in the first leg. In case he won’t make it (twisted an ankle on 31st of January) Levy will have every chance to deploy a more defensive team, as he did in the last three friendly matches: a 4-4-2 with Dinu Todoran on the right side of midfield and Onofras will be the second striker with the task of dropping down (he has excellent stamina and work rate) when the Reds have the ball and pushing forward on the channels created by centre forward Marius Bilasco.
- Unirea played 7 friendly matches since the team resumed training, winning 4, drawing 1 and losing 2 – 7 goals scored, 2 goals received. For those interested in betting, not a single match finished “over 2,5″.
- One player in particular has an interesting story. Epaminonda Nicu (30) is the only player that was part of the wonderful adventure which saw this small club progressing from Romania’s third tier to the title and the Champions League group stage. Nicu improved impressively and always gave his best to rise to the challenge, playing both as central defender and right back. Since 2003, he collected 161 matches in Romania for Urziceni and only this season, after the transfer of former Rapid Bucharest skipper Vasile Maftei, he found it more difficult to get a place in the starting eleven.