Archive

Archive for July, 2010

Title contenders: Steaua Bucharest

July 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Fourth place last season wasn’t that bad, considering the poor quality of the team and the huge conflict between the fans and the club’s owner, but Gigi Becali realized that he needs to change not for Steaua’s sake, but thinking about the lost money in recent years, where he dictated everything at the club, making a mockery of what still is the team with the biggest fan base in Romania. That’s why he accepted Victor Piturca’s conditions, including the toughest of all: keeping his big huge mouth shut. The former national team coach took up the manager’s role – Premier League style – supervising the training sessions conducted by Eugen Neagoe, former Pandurii coach, bringing back former Steaua players and offering them jobs in the youth academy, installing Emerich Ienei (the man that brought Steaua the biggest European trophy in 1986) as club president, getting the fans back in the stands and behind the team. He did so many important things for the club that missing out on the title this season shouldn’t matter that much. But I’m sure this is unacceptable for the ambitious Piturca…

Mercato activity:

Players in: Stanislav Angelov (central midfielder, 32, Energie Cottbus), Iasmin Latovlevic (left back, 24, FC Timisoara), Cosmin Matei (central attacking midfielder, 19, Farul Constanta), Geraldo Alves (central defender, 30, AEK Athens), Yordan Todorov (right back, 29, Lokomotiv Plovdiv), Novak Martinovic (central defender, 25, Pandurii), Alexandru Pacurar (central midfielder, 29, Pandurii), Razvan Stanca (goalkeeper, 31, Pandurii), Florin Gardos (central defender, 22, Concordia Chiajna), Dorel Stoica (central defensive midfielder, 32, El Ettifaq), Mihai Radut (central attacking midfielder, 20, International Curtea de Arges),  Octavian Abrudan (central midfielder, 26, FC Brasov).

Players out: Arman Karamyan (forward, 31, released), Artiom Karamyan (left midfielder, 31, released), Petre Marin (left back, 37 , Unirea Urziceni), Zhivko Zhelev (central defender, 31, Inter Baku), Gora Tall (central defender, 25, APOP Kinyras – loan expired), Pepe Moreno (striker, 29, Independiente – loan expired), Pawel Golanski (right back, 28, released), Stelios Parpas (central defender, 25, AEL Limassol), Ovidiu Petre (central defensive midfielder, 28, Al Nasr), Alexandru Tudose (central defender, 23, Gloria Bistrita), Juan Toja (left midfielder, 25, Aris Salonic).

Mihai Radut, the young and the fearless

Massive changes in Ghencea, where Piturca wanted and had every reason to create a new team. Among the rare important losses is Ovidiu Petre, but the manager had on the anchorman role his favorite player already lined-up, Dorel Stoica. For the rest, he went on to bring on a mixture of young & promising players like Radut and experienced guys like Angelov, which proves that his goal is building a new squad, without sacrificing this season’s trophies at stake. Interesting fact, Steaua relies on the same forwards from last year, even though Pantelis Kapetanos doesn’t seem to fit the lone striker’s profile preferred by Piturca, which means that Bogdan Stancu should enjoy the best season of his career and start fulfilling his potential. But what if he doesn’t or gets injured? Back to the Greek one more time? What does this guy has to do – this year, against all odds, got to play in the World Cup! – in order to start a season as the number one choice for the centre-forward role?

Tactics:

  • Coach: Victor Piturca (new)
  • Preferred system: 4-1-4-1
  • Ideal first eleven: Tatarusanu – Emeghara, Abrudan, Geraldo Alves, Latovlevici – Stoica – Nicolita, Radut, Angelov, Tanase – B. Stancu
  • Reliable subs: Stanca (goalkeeper), Pacurar (central midfielder), Szekely (right winger), Kapetanos (centre forward).
  • Key player: Dorel Stoica. Able to play in central defense, the 32 years old was convinced by Piturca to sign for Steaua, even when the manager wasn’t sure that he’ll return to Ghencea. Deployed in front of the back four, Stoica has the ability and the experience to protect not just the back four, but also the “front four”, as the line of midfielders will have to think how to open up the opposition’s defense, not be afraid that a missed pass or a miscontrolled ball could expose their own defense. In his own half, Stoica will win balls in the air, shut down channels, anticipate the midfielders looking to drop into space, but once Steaua regains possession, he will organize the build up, draw the back four as high as possible and eventually pose a threat with his long shots, especially from free kicks.
  • Underrated player: Pantelis Kapetanos. The Greek isn’t a pleasure to watch, I agree, but he’s been a very prolific scorer even when Steaua was playing miserably – I wonder what he could do in a team that has superior possession and creative midfielders able to increase the number of scoring opportunities. His presence at the World Cup will keep him out of the team in the first month, but once “Kape” is fit, Stancu’s age and (unfulfilled) potential won’t be enough to keep him in the first eleven, ahead of this modest, hard-working and effective front man.
  • Liability: Ciprian Tatarusanu. Promising, definitely gifted, looks to me like the kind of keeper that will need to turn 30 to be really something. But I might judge the guy a bit too hard and based mainly on last season’s performances, when Steaua’s defense was a joke. 

What to expect:

Victor Piturca, the man nicknamed Satan by the same fans that now consider him Messiah

A serious title challenge from a club offered by its clown of an owner to a very ambitious manager, Victor Piturca, who changed absolutely everything at Steaua and now it’s only a matter of time until the results will show that this is the way to run a successfull team. It will be hard to win the title right away, mainly because the league changed a lot in recent years and this isn’t just an affair between the Bucharest sides, but the fact that all the other title contenders point towards Steaua when asked who’s the favorite proves that the name still weights enough to crush the clubs that only recently enjoyed the sweet taste of success.

Advertisements

Title contenders: Rapid Bucharest

July 24, 2010 1 comment

Just missed on an European spot last season, in spite of Ioan Andone’s attempts to save what seemed a compromised campaign. Involved in a huge controversy, regarding the use of two players loaned from Sportul Studentesc, Dacian Varga and Tiberiu Balan, who were registered after the winter mercato period had ended, Rapid wasted a year, paying for poor management and a lack of strategy from the club’s owner, George Copos. Surprisingly, this guy, who repeatedly tried to get rid of the club, returned this summer determined to make Rapid one of the serious title contenders in Liga I. He convinced Dinu Gheorghe to come back from FC Brasov as the club’s president and this very influent character in Romanian football returned in style: 5 of Brasov’s best players came along and the young coach Marius Sumudica – considered one of the clubs living legends – has an excellent squad at his disposal and basically no excuse if he’ll finish the season outside the first two spots.

Mercato activity:

Players in: Marcos Antonio (central defender, 27, Belensenses), Sabrin Sburlea (forward, 21, FC Brasov), Mihai Roman (right midfielder, 26, FC Brasov), Rui Duarte (right back, 30, FC Brasov), Roosevelt Tavares de Melo Ezequias (left back, 30, FC Brasov), Nicolae Grigore (central defensive midfielder, 27, FC Brasov),  Cassio Vargas (striker, 27, Uniao Leiria), Glauber Berti (central defender, 27, Sao Caetano), Gustavo Nacaratto Veronesi, 28, right winger).

Players out: Adrian Iencsi (central defender, 35, Concordia Chiajna), Diego Ciz (left back, 29, Olimpia Asuncion – loan expired), Darjian Matic (central defensive midfielder, 27, released), Ilie Iordache (forward, 25, AEK Athens – loan expired), Alexandru Ionita (striker, 21, FC Koln), Edgars Gauracs (striker, 22, FK Ventspils – loan expired), Cristian Sapunaru (right back, 26, FC Porto – loan expired), Helder da Silva Fereira (right wing back, 22, Nancy – loan expired), Dacian Varga (left winger, 26, Sportul Studentesc – loan expired), Tiberiu Balan (attacking midfielder, 29, Sportul Studentesc – loan expired).

Mihai Roman, national team material

Intense activity on the market, with impressive results, indeed. Rapid lost a number of players, but only a couple were indeed valuable for the team, and decided to cashvin on the promising Ionita after his first full season for the seniors. On the other hand, the buys were spot on: Rui Duarte will make up for Sapunaru’s departure, Ezequias will provide competition for Bozovic, who becomes also availabe for a more advanced role on the left side, while Cassio and Sburlea should do better in terms of efficiency than Ionita. Roman’s addition – a national team player these days – is a coup, but the two Brazilian centre-backs will need to confirm the board’s inspiration and Sumudica’s ability to recondition two players of some quality, but who come from very long breaks. To conclude, Rapid has now quality on each position, competition for a place in the first eleven and a group of players hungry for trophies. Excellent job from the staff!

Tactics:

  • Coach: Marius Sumudica (new)
  • Preferred system: 4-2-3-1
  • Ideal first eleven: Bornescu – Rui Duarte, Glauber, Constantin, Bozovic – Grigore, Lazar – Roman, Spadacio, Cesinha – Cassio Vargas
  • Reliable subs: Ezequias (left back), Marcos Antonio (central defender), Herea (attacking midfielder), Grigorie (attacking midfielder), Sburlea (striker).
  • Key player: Costin Lazar. The three offensive players, Roman, Spadacio and Cesinha, are match winners, in my opinion, but what would they do if the team’s captain, one of the most gifted and underrated central midfielders in Romanian football, misses from the pitch? Technically gifted, composed and comfortable on the ball, having excellent vision and the ability to link up play effectively, he’s the man that keeps Rapid’s game flowing. A fight with Sumudica in pre-season was a signal that he’s a bit frustrated at the lack of offers from abroad, but it’s all in the past now, as he realized that this team has what it takes to win something this year.
  • Underrated player: None. At this point, there are around 20 players entitled for a place in the first eleven and, with so many additions, it’s fair to wait a couple of months and see everyone at work.
  • Liability: Constantin’s partner in central defense. Both Glauber and Marcos Antonio need time to regain match fitness, after lengthy spells on the sidelines, and will be prone to mistakes at least in the first few rounds of the season.

What to expect:

"Sumi-goal", returning as a coach

There is a lot of enthusiasm in Giulesti, where there’s a passionate crowd and the atmosphere at Rapid’s home games is impressive even when the team plays badly, so we can expect a good start from Rapid. But problems do appear as the season progresses and we can expect them in a team that will leave on the bench or in the stands good players every round, in a team that has a habit of alternating wonderful performances against the top clubs with poor results against the smaller teams. It will all depend on Sumudica’s ability to keep things balanced and under control, but he’s rather an impulsive, choleric character and quite unexperienced as a Liga I coach.

Liga I starts today. We’re ready, let’s see if the teams are too!

July 23, 2010 2 comments

After a mad season, with no less than seven clubs involved in the title race for a very long period, which confirmed that the Bucharest clubs have been outclassed in recent years by teams like CFR Cluj, Unirea Urziceni, FC Timisoara or FC Vaslui, we can expect something similar for the competition that begins today. Even though  Timisoara and Dinamo were discrete on the transfer market, which could be said as well about Unirea Urziceni, we have the same number of interested teams in the biggest trophy, but we should see if the big spenders have been wise spenders. Money will make the difference, that’s for sure, and I’m not saying that just because the referees will be paid cash, right after the end of a game, but because it will prove very difficult in this financial crisis to pay the players and staff on time and keep everybode happy and focused.

The biggest problems will appear at the smaller clubs that should live on enthusiasm in the first couple of months, but we’ll probably see a huge gap in the standings really soon. We lack “mid-table” clubs this season, with only Otelul Galati and Gaz Metan Medias good enough to stay safe from relegation and look ahead, not over the shoulder, and unlike those tricked by Otelul’s good run from the second half of last season, I expect Gaz Metan to be the surprise package and maybe even push for an European spot.

The newly promoted clubs are FCM Targu Mures, Victoria Branesti, Sportul Studentesc and Universitatea Cluj. The first two have the biggest chances of an immediate return to the second division, while Sportul rely on a nice group of players (similar to the one relegated after an excellent season in Liga I, due to financial issues) and Universitatea Cluj invested a lot of money in several new faces and has an amazing fan base. Fighting for survival we will also see Universitatea Craiova, Pandurii Targu Jiu (who kept their place in the league only after International’s retirement), Astra Ploiesti and Gloria Bistrita.

Here’s the first round of the season:

Friday:

  • Sportul Studentesc – Otelul Galati
  • Pandurii Targu Jiu – Unirea Urziceni
  • Rapid Bucharest – FC Vaslui

Saturday:

  • Universitatea Craiova – CFR Cluj
  • FC Timisoara – Gloria Bistrita

Sunday:

  • Universitatea Cluj – Steaua Bucharest
  • Astra Ploiesti – Dinamo Bucharest

Monday:

  • FCM Targu Mures – FC Brasov
  • Victoria Branesti – Gaz Metan Medias

For those interested, the games are broadcasted on GSP TV, Digi Sport and Antena 1 (I’ll post more details, if requested).

Title contenders: FC Vaslui

July 23, 2010 1 comment

Last season’s third place only motivated the wealthy Adrian Porumboiu to continue his solid investment in a small club, but who definitely looks on its way to success. Vaslui matched the champions from CFR in terms of quality buys from abroad, having in Wesley da Silva, Gladstone, Costly or Kuciak top players by Liga I standards, but the team guided by Marius Lacatus lost pace and energy exactly when they needed a final, convincing sprint. If Lacatus wouldn’t have decided to move to Spain, I’m sure he would have been replaced anyway, knowing Porumboiu’s determination to prove not just his financial strength, but also that, as a former international ref, he’s got more footballing culture than any other club owner.

Mercato activity:

Players in: David Rivas (central defender, 31, Betis Seville), Vytautas Cerniauskas (goalkeeper, 21, Ekranas), Alejandro Campano (midfielder, 32, Gimnastic), Rodolfo Bodipo (striker, 32, Deportivo La Coruna – loan), Daniel Pancu (central attacking midfielder, 33, CSKA Sofia), Silviu Balace (left back, 32, Universitatea Craiova – returns from loan)

Players out: Roberto Alfonso Delgado (right midfielder, 24, Universitatea Cluj)

David Rivas, a defender used to deal with slightly better opponents

Interesting campaign, based on players demanded and convinced by the newly appointed coach, Lopez Caro, who should add experience and professionalism to a team that managed to keep all the important names from the previous campaign. The imports from Spain have been a rare treat in Liga I, while Pancu’s return to Romania, very close to his birthplace, Iasi, could exploit the last top performances from a quality attacking player indeed, who could have made it big in European football, with a bit more luck. What’s a bit surprising is the fact that Vaslui paid just one transfer fee this summer, 300.000 Euros for the promising Lithuanian keeper Cerniasukas, but has probably the largest wage bill in the league.

Tactics:

  • Coach: Lopez Caro (new)
  • Preferred system: 4-2-3-1
  • Ideal first eleven: Cerniauskas – Milanov, Rivas, Farkas, Hugo Luz – Gladstone, Pancu – Sanmartean, Wesley, Milisavijevic – Bodipo
  • Realiable subs: Kuciak (goalkeeper), Zubar (central defender), Ghencev (central midfielder), Pavlovic (central midfielder), Costly (striker), Temwanjera (striker)
  • Key player: Wesley. Quality attacking option, able to create and finish and play at a high level on a number of positions and roles. One of the top three forwards in the league, can decide matches on his own, but often plays for the team, showing very good understanding with Sanmartean last season, looking excited to have the chance to play alongside other quality footballers. With their number increased after this summer’s campaign, we can expect even greater things from the Brazilian.
  • Underrated player: Nemanja Milisavijevic. The left footed winger has outstanding pace, good dribbling skills and can torment his direct opponent, but unfortunately for him, last season, he rarely played at his full potential. Fully fit, he could have a very good year, but it’s hard to say who is going to be the top player this time around, with so many quality players in midfield and attack.
  • Liability: Vytautas Cerniauskas – if he plays right away. The young goalie has just arrived, but, given the conflict between the club and first choice keeper Dusan Kuciak, he might  get soon the chance to prove himself and I doubt that a second Arlauskis could arrive to Liga I so soon and make a similar impact. If I’d be in Caro’s place I would trust Haisan, who stepped in well even last season and should offer time and guidance to Cerniauskas, as well.

What to expect:

Lopez Caro

A very strong team, with an interesting coach and technical staff and solid finances, FC Vaslui is a serious threat and everyone’s aware of that. The club’s problems could come from Lopez Caro’s lack of knowledge about Romanian football – which could prove mindblowing, at times, through all sorts of episodes – and the unsolved conflicts for long periods, similar to the two that currently invlove Costly and Kuciak (two of the club’s best players). The fact is, though, that the team has so many potential match winners that I cannot see FC Vaslui losing points against the smaller clubs, who will defend at all costs and through any means available, and should offer very entertaining derbies.

Chiacu returns to FC Timisoara. Zicu, ready to follow him

July 22, 2010 1 comment

Very discrete on the transfer market until now – after years of investments that haven’t brought the expected trophies, FC Timisoara re-signed Hristu Chiacu from Dinamo, who will come on loan for another season. The attacking midfielder could be followed by a player of a similar profile from the same club. Ianis Zicu, who was once under contract with Internazionale Milano and is out of favor at the Bucharest club, due to his mediocre performances and terrible attitude, has been spotted in Timisoara, where he will negotiate a deal with the Viola outfit.

On another note, the former Energie Cottbus defender Ovidiu Burca, currently a free player, has rejected “a tempting offer” from Timisoara, stating that he feels there’s an unstable environment in Romanian football. I’ll translate that for those interested: “FC Timisoara just had its accounts blocked, the club owner says at least once a week that he’s not motivated anymore to invest in the team and is at war with the local authorities”.

Former Betis Seville captain signs for FC Vaslui!

July 21, 2010 2 comments

After the loan of Rodolfo Bodipo, from Deportivo La Coruna, FC Vaslui signs for one season (with the option to extend the deal for one more year) the former captain of Betis Seville, David Rivas. The 31 years old comes on a free transfer and says that he came to Romania to win the title and play Champions League football, adding more quality and experience to an already solid roster, trained by the former Real Madrid coach Lopez Caro.

According to the club’s owner, Rivas was signed only to please the coach and his arrival should determine the sale or loan of one of the others central defenders in the squad. My bet is that either the very promising Paul Papp will be allowed to move on loan, in order to keep playing on a regular basis, although he comes after a solid half of season with the team, or the experienced Gabriel Canu will be allowed to leave at a decent price. All the other centre-backs have the advantage of being versatile enough to cover at least one other role (Gladstone – central defensive midfielder, Zubar – right back, Farkas – left back) and it’s probably too late for them to be offered to clubs from abroad.

Universitatea Cluj keeps on buying from Dinamo: “Claugol” signs for two years

July 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Claudiu Niculescu, playing for MSV Duisburg

Since Florian Walter, a former shareholder at Dinamo, took over Universitatea Cluj, in the second division, several players moved from Bucharest to this highly respected and loved club. It proved a successful strategy last season and “U” saw no reason in giving it up after gaining promotion in the top flight.

The first addition was Gabriel Bostina, the experienced midfielder who moved on a free transfer, followed by the versatile Silviu Izvoranu, who can cover almost any position that require a left footed player. Walter was though interested in getting also footballers of an even higher profile and said that he is willing to wait until the 1st of September for the rebel Adrian Cristea and the veteran Claudiu Niculescu. Well, Niculescu realized that if he stays, he’ll probably have to watch a lot of games from the stands, not even from the bench, as Dinamo wasn’t able to sell established strikers like Andrei Cristea and Marius Niculae and was also looking to offer a chance to prove themsevles to Ganea, Alexe or Paun, young players who already proved their potential in Liga I.

Niculescu, one of the leagues all time top scorers, with 138 goals scored in 284 matches, will stay in Cluj for the next two seasons, but should prove more useful in helping youngsters like the Brazilian Machado or the promising Romanian Voican develop quicker rather than provide a decent number of goals. “Claugol” has struggled lately in finding a decent form, lost pace and stamina, looks very fragile when in possession and is too focused on getting freekicks in dangerous positions outside the box, the only way he can still harm the opposition and get his name on the scoreboard.

%d bloggers like this: