Yes, Ioan Viorel Ganea, the former Stuttgart & Wolves striker, who also played for Dinamo, Rapid and Politehnica Timisoara, has decided to move up one division and sign for Sanatatea Cluj. This is the club’s first major signing ahead of the Romanian Cup game versus Steaua Bucharest, as “The Green Viruses” (Sanatatea translates into “health”) launched a similar invitation to other big names, with Cosmin Contra, the former AC Milan and Atletico Madrid right back, expected to offer an answer today, once he returns to Romania.
At 38, Ganea has decided to make an attempt to kick out Steaua from this competition on Thursday evening and will decide afterwards if he’ll keep playing for the club that has offered him a monthly wage of, sit down before you read this, less than 50 euros. With 17 goals scored for the national team and 130 for the clubs he has played for, the veteran striker would like to add another one that he’ll remember for years…
Now that’s something, especially when two of the opponents are Lazio and Schalke 04. Although Rapid managed to win away in Israel, confirming that Razvan Lucescu knows how to approach the games in Europe, Vaslui was again the surprise package, not only because they almost won on “Olimpico”, but because they are still struggling to field a decent defense.
Cisse, Rocchi and Sculli were often frustrated by a back four that contained only two natural defenders, as Viorel Hizo was once again forced to improvise in front of a very young keeper. The Italians might not know it, but Ionut Balaur, the centre-back, is a 21 years old striker, with absolutely zero experience in Liga I, while the left flank was defended by Nemanja Milisavljevic, a serbian left winger who rarely used to track back when used in his natural position.
All credit must go to the experienced Hizo, who wasn’t bluffing when he announced that the team will try to play an open game and he was right to try an keep the ball away from the box, as Vaslui always struggled to contain Lazio when pegged back, even with a one man advantage. With Sanmartean able to dribble in a phone booth, the intelligent Wesley always dropping into space at the right time and Adailton kept on the pitch even when he couldn’t run anymore, for his ability to deliver killer balls, Vaslui might regret the lost points, but shouldn’t, if this inexperienced team in Europe learned something from a contest they had entered with no chances to survive and got so close to come out with the result of their lives.
A much more cautious approach was adopted by Steaua against Schalke, with Ronny Levy clearly going for a draw and rarely thinking to take advantage of the German’s unstable defense. The Bucharest side is obviously struggling to find a new identity and will need time to make the system work with so many new players, with Bourceanu vital to keep things tight at the back and the entire team compact. His impact has been huge and “Romania’s Gattuso” is the only certainty in Levy’s eleven, which has too many centre-backs, but no reliable right back, enough forwards, but not a natural goalscorer, hard working central midfielders with little vision and playmaking ability and not a single wide player able to make the difference. This team needs a lot of work to get going and I doubt the coach will have enough time to put together a puzzle that doesn’t lack quality pieces. The good thing is that there’s realism on the bench and th team is collecting points even in a difficult period.
It’s enough to look at the standings, with the champions just above the relegation zone, to realize that even though Otelul kept all the players that impressed last term, the team lost something along the way. Unfortunately for them, the something in question is what Italians call “l’umilta”. The modesty of a group that last season knew so well that they need to outpace and outmuscle the opposition, having less technical quality, was key to the surprising success. Now that it’s gone, this team looks average in its best days and, what’s even worse, the players are getting the wrong messages from its leaders. There’s talk about the number of points that will be collected in the group stage, with only Manchester United considered too strong for a team that in three matches against newly promoted clubs in Liga I collected only one win! Considering the players’ (lack of) form and adding the wrong type of approach, I expect Otelul to reconsider their position right after the away game at Basel. And start using Modesty, Determination and Ambition in their first eleven just like last season, because they stand a chance against both Man United and Concordia Chiajna only if they start looking again at every match as a game of inches…