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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.

Title contenders: Unirea Urziceni

July 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Finished in second place last year, mainly due to an obvious lack of attacking options that wasn’t solved during the winter mercato break. Looking at this summer’s transfer campaign, with no important departures and two forwards added to the squad, it seems that Unirea realized how close the team was to another league title and hopes that stability will prove a decisive advantage, if speculated to the max in the first part of the season, when the title challengers will be still trying to fit in their numerous buys and figure out which system suits them best.

Mercato activity:

Players in: Adrian Neaga (forward, 31, Neftci Baku), Petre Marin (left back/right back, 37, Steaua), Maurice Junior Dale (forward, 25, Arles-Avignon)

Players out: Daniel Munteanu (central defender, 32, Universitatea Cluj)

Petre Marin, "Romania's Roberto Carlos"

Unirea added just three names, but all of them are expected to help the team right away. Team manager Mihai Stoica, the man in charge when it comes to buys, had been following for months the unknown Dale (so this isn’t one of the so “popular” buys from abroad based on DVD’s and agent recommendations) and went for two other very experienced players he knows very well from his Steaua days. In spite of his age, Marin should prove not just useful, but quite important, while Neaga – a wasted talent – returns to Romania after yet another strange experience abroad, in Baku. Anyway, unless Dale turns out to be a standout player, it’s the right moment to use a cliche and say that Unirea’s best deals are keeping the likes of Arlauskis, Galamaz, Brandan and Bilasco, the guys that form the backbone of this organized and hard-working side.

Tactics:

  • Coach: Ronny Levy (joined the club in January 2010)
  • Preferred system: 4-1-4-1
  • Ideal first eleven: Arlauskis – Marin, Galamaz, Maftei, Brandan – Paraschiv – Neaga, Paduretu, Apostol, Frunza – Bilasco
  • Realiable subs: Fernandes (central defender), Semedo (right wing), Marinescu (attacking midfielder), Onofras (forward) Dale (forward), Rusescu (forward)
  • Key player: Marius Bilasco. This player’s outstanding ability to win aerial duels in spite of his just 184 cm, to hold the ball upfront and his intelligence of brining others into play is vital to Unirea’s game. Not a natural goalscorer, Bilasco is an excellent team player, who can stay fit for an entire season, playing his heart every week.
  • Underrated player: Marius Onofras. Had to choose quite an old forward ahead of Rusescu because this guy reminds me so much of Dirk Kuyt, in terms of work-rate. Able to produce wonderful goals at times, he will link-up play, run the channels, in my opinion, he’s the perfect partner for Bilasco and hopefully he’ll get more time on the pitch than he did last season.
  • Liability: Vasile Maftei. As strange as it may sound, I expect Maftei to have a poor season, at his return at the heart of the defense. Moved on the right, he became a solution even for the national team, but now Levy is trying to partner him with Galamaz, the true leader of Unirea’s back four, and he might find out to be a bad idea having two coordinators in central defense and also find less appealing than in the past Maftei’s overconfidence in his technique and desire to push deep into the opposition’s half having the ball at his feet.

Ronny Levy

What to expect:

Last season, Unirea paid the price for its’ cautious approach for long periods of matches that seemed under control and I expect Levy to take more risks in his attempt to turn draws into victories. This team may not be THE favorite in the title race, but somehow it looks like the team to beat, which we usually tend to say about the reigning champions. This is a strong group, experienced, well balanced, still hungry to win trophies and I see Unirea fighting for the top spot until the very last round.

Title contenders: CFR Cluj

July 20, 2010 2 comments

They won the league last season, after a mad campaign, when no less than six clubs fighting for the top spot. Not at all impressive in terms of tactics, Andrea Mandorlini managed to deliver (the championship was followed by the Romanian Cup) and extend his contract for one more season, when his rotation policy will make some sense, having to play in the Champions League group stage, as well. CFR tried to use its’ advantage of having cash to spend on transfer fees, not just wages for free players and their agents’ comissions, making one loan deal permanent – Piccolo – and signing Bjelanovic, an experienced striker demanded by Mandorlini, and Hora, a promising winger.

Mercato activity:

Players in: Sasa Bjelanovic (striker, 31, Vicenza), Felice Piccolo (central defender, 27, Empoli), Dominique Kivuvu (central midfielder, 23, NEC Nijmegen), Nuno Pereira Diogo (central defender, 29, FC Brasov), Ionut Rada (central defender, 28, Al Nasr), Ioan Hora (right winger, 22, Gloria Bistrita), Rafael Bastos (attacking midfielder, 25, Sporting Braga), Diego Ruiz (striker, 30, Kasimpasa, returns from loan), Rade Veljovic (striker, 24, returns from loan), Emmanuel Kone (midfielder, 24, returns from loan), Paul Batin (striker, 23, returns from loan).

Players out: Nicolae Dica (attacking midfielder, 30, loan expired), Davide Bottone (central midfielder, 24, loan expired), Claudinei Aparecido “Nei” (striker, 30, loan expired), Nelson Cabrera (central defender, 27, loan expired), Roberto De Zerbi (forward, 31, loan expired), Sixto Peralta (central midfielder, 31, released).

Dominique Kivuvu, CFR's Vieira

Initially, CFR took care of the players who were loaned last season and paid just for Piccolo’s transfer, who gets along well with team captain and defensive partner, Cadu. A good decision, just like the one to let go Nicolae Dica, an impressive name just on paper and when the TV graphics were presenting the teams. Bjelanovic is certainly an interesting buy, while Kivuvu looks also like a buy, in spite of the player’s arrival on a free transfer. The midfielder was monitorred and probably convinced earlier, so this was also a calculated move from CFR, as was the addition of Hora, who had a solid season with Gloria Bistrita and suits Mandorlini’s favorite tactical setup. Of all departures, Peralta’s could prove the biggest lost, but the bookeepers will be happier than the fans to see the man earning 375.000 Euros per year move away from Cluj. A good summer campaign from CFR’s staff, lead by club president Iuliu Muresan, who wanted to be sure that Mandorlini has what it takes and even something more to defend the title and also get a couple of results in the Champions League.

Tactics:

  • Coach: Andrea Mandorlini (joined the club in November 2009)
  • Preferred system: 4-3-3
  • Ideal first eleven: Nuno Claro – Panin, Cadu, Piccolo, Edimar – Kivuvu, Muresan, Culio – Hora, Bjelanovic, Deac
  • Realiable subs: Tony (right back), Leonardo Veloso (left back), Dani (central midfield), Bud, Kone, Traore (strikers)
  • Key player: Gabriel Muresan. Cadu was also an option, with his ability to step up and convert penalties that bring trophies (it’s at least strange how many titles were decided through a penalty kick awarded to CFR in decisive matches!), but the anchorman is key with his ability to organize play and protect the defense, in a calm and commanding display. Excellent in the air, strong in the tackle, able to find the net with his powerful long range efforts, Muresan often leaves the impression that he dictates all that takes place on the pitch. Around him!
  • Underrated player: Emmanuel Kone. The young Ivorian wide midfielder spent a year on loan with International Curtea de Arges and I was expecting to see him welcomed back and involved more in Mandorlini’s plans. Surprisingly, he’s not, even though Sven Goran Eriksson rates him higher than Lacina Traore, but CFR will do well to keep him. I’m sure he’ll prove pretty useful very soon, given the lack of solutions in midfield, if we leave aside the three regular starters.
  • Liability: My first thought was to go for Mandorlini’s favorite player, Deac (a bit of controversy never hurt a blog!), but Nuno Claro’s performance from the Supercup offered me the opportunity to point out the much praised Portuguese keeper as the number one threat for CFR’s goal next season. He lacks consistency, makes poor decisions under pressure, has poor understanding with the defenders and the odd mistake comes way too often.

What to expect:

Andrea Mandorlini

They’ve moved very well on the transfer market, have experience, morale and a quality roster, with no less than six forwards who could play anywhere in Romania and are often linked to important clubs from abroad. At this point, if CFR fails, it cannot be but Mandorlini’s fault. I admit, with this strong squad, it will be hard for him to mess it up, at least in Liga I, but my feeling is that he won’t be in Cluj next summer, celebrating. The team is still trying to adjust to his beloved 4-3-3 and played often miserably last season, with the players making the difference in CFR’s favor on their own. Or the refs! Favorites to win the league, I agree, but I doubt that everything will favor them, like the previous season.

Lazio wants Romania’s U21 captain, Gabriel Torje

July 17, 2010 2 comments

According to gsp.ro, “i biancocelesti” asked for Cristiano Bergodi’s opinion on Dinamo’s winger, who doesn’t have an attracting asking price, given the fact that the Red Dogs bought only 50% of the player’s rights from Timisoara, for almost 2 million Euros! So, talks are expected to start from 4 million Euros, the two clubs having a precedent in “the Stefan Radu case”, the defender bought by Lazio for 5,4 million Euros, after a one year long loan deal. Of course, Dinamo was wrong to pay so much at that time, a mistake done recently by Steaua, as well, who bought Cristian Tanase’s 50% for 1,8 million Euros, from a second division club!

Torje looked indeed very promising a few years ago, when he got so much credit from Gheorghe Hagi (too underrated as a coach!), playing on a regular basis as an 18 years old for Timisoara, but since his move to Bucharest, his impressive development rate slowed down. Still, he’s the captain of the U21, could earn very soon his first caps for the seniors,  but he still needs to become even better in terms of technique & tactical knowledge, to make up for his very small size and be able to play with the big boys. Right now, he’s not worth more than the 2 millions paid by Dinamo, of course, if the buying club expects to make a profit in two or three years time…

FC Vaslui buys a fifth goalkeeper. Kuciak is history!

July 16, 2010 1 comment

A member of Lithuania’s U21, Vytautas Cerniauskas was signed from FK Ekranas, for an undisclosed fee, and agreed to a five years long deal. The promising keeper is expected to fight for his place in a team that already had the experienced Haisan and transferred earlier this month Cosmin Vatca, from Steaua. What’s almost certain is that Vaslui’s top keeper, Dusan Kuciak, currently refusing to rejoin the team, is on his way out, but that would be possible only if Porumboiu will leave aside his hurt ego and negotiate a deal way below the announced price tag of 2 million Euros.

Cerniauskas hopes to make a similar impact to another very talented Lithuanian goalkeeper, Unirea Urziceni’s Giedrius Arlauskis, who was spotted when he was also 21 years old, by the excellent team manager Mihai Stoica and promoted by Dan Petrescu, being considered now transfer material by important clubs from Spain and Germany.

Costly and Kuciak, two of FC Vaslui’s stars, threatened to play in the fourth divison!

July 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Carlos Costly, 28 years old

The arrival of Lopez Caro on the bench and the quality of the players already available entitled FC Vaslui to nurture high hopes for a second consecutive season, an ambition that isn’t though shared by all the players. In fact, two of the club’s best, the Hondurian striker Carlos Costly and the Slovakian keeper Dusan Kuciak (who travelled to South Africa for the World Cup), have failed to return from vacation and are hoping to part ways with a small, but ambitious club, lead by a very wealthy man. The former international ref Adrian Porumboiu didn’t react well to such behaviour and repeteadly asked the players to come to Romania and respect their current deals. Failing to find an agreement, Porumboiu now threatens both of them with a nightmare of a season, in Romania’s fourth tier, stating that he’s willing to let them go only if someone will come up with the 2 million Euros he demands for each footballer. Which will never happen.

Poorly advised so far, these two fellows will be in a lot of trouble unless they will try at least and find an agreement, knowing Porumboiu’s ego and his refusal to see himself dominated by players and especially their agents. Wesley Lopes da Silva, Vaslui’s top footballer, can certainly confirm it…

Relegated club in May, newly promoted in July!

July 15, 2010 1 comment

Well, you could say that it’s been an excellent summer break for Pandurii Targu Jiu, who managed to return to Liga I after just a couple of months and without having to play a single official game! The Professional League of Football (LPF) officially announced the retirement of International Curtea de Arges (financial problems) from the top flight and its replacement with Pandurii, the club that had finished the previous season just below the line.

Even though LPF say that everything went according to regulations, it’s a known fact that International’s owner, Benone Lazar, negotiated his way out and it’s just a happy coincidence that the most interested club was the one entitled to take this free spot.  Politehnica Iasi – also relegated last season – and second division club Dacia Mioveni held talks with the man who apparently will get Pandurii’s TV rights from the following season, around 1,4 million Euros, and also demanded the club to transfer the entire team and coaching staff from International to Pandurii! More convenient is an already arranged friendly between the clubs, which will be now used by the former International’s coach Ionut Badea to see both teams at work and select Pandurii’s new set of players.

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