As 2013 comes to an end, GSP prepares to reward those who impressed in Liga I. As always, there is room to discuss about their nominations, considering that a youngster like Dinamo’s Dorin Rotariu, who featured in just 25 league games this year (starting in 11 and playing for 90 minutes only 3 times!) is in the race for the “Romanian best player of the year” award, but there is one category that got my attention.
The paper published today a list with the top 3 foreign players in the past 5 years and is very interesting what happened with them, although they impressed over here.
2008 was CFR’s year. Sebastian Dubarbier, an Argentinian winger who was too quick for Liga I, but proved a bad piece of business for Lorient, who spent a lot of cash by there standards in January 2010. A series of loans followed, to Tenerife and Cordoba, and the left footed player finally got a shot at first division football in a top league, once he left Ligue 1 and moved to La Liga, with Almeria.
He had defeated in 2008 his fellow countryman Juan Emmanuel Culio, signed by Galatasaray in 2010, used for 15 matches and then loaned to other two Turkish teams, before allowing him to move to Spain’s Segunda, at Deportivo. Third placed Yssouf Kone had an even worse faith, struggling to move away from Romania and failing to get back to playing football, after his transfer to Valerenga.
In 2009, the versatile Pablo Brandan impressed under Dan Petrescu, helping Unirea Urziceni win the title, but not even 1 and a half years with Steaua convinced a European club to gamble on the former Alaves player, who moved to China. The top 3 was completed by two forwards, Wesley and Pantelis Kapetanos, the most prolific foreign players in the league’s history. The Brazilian was going to become a regular presence in this category, while the Greek striker’s career took a rather interesting turn: although a proven goalscorer with Steaua, the Bucharest side surprisingly allowed him to move for peanuts to a rival, CFR Cluj. His career stalled, yet, for some reason, his former club tried to undone that mistake by taking him back last summer.
2010 was an all-Brasilian year, with current Pandurii star Eric de Oliveira impressing in a number 10 role for Gaz Metan Medias and finishing above Junior Moraes and Wesley. Caught in the middle of a dispute between his former and current club and probably badly advised, Eric forced his escape and did some serious damage to what could have been a better career. He moved to Ukraine and played just 6 games for Karpaty, accepting a return to Medias in 2012, in an attempt to get back on track, something he is finally achieving now with Pandurii, two full years after his best season in Liga 1, in which he scored 15 goals in 31 games.
Junior Moraes and Wesley struggled to convince Western Europe and the former Gloria Bistrita striker initially failed to make an impact with Metalurg Donetsk, but scored 16 goals in 24 games for CSKA Sofia and got himself a second chance with the Ukrainian club.
Third placed Wesley was going to finally win the award in 2011, a second consecutive all-Brasilian year, a feat he was going to repeat in 2012, before getting a great contract from… Al-Hilal. In 2011, he was better than his ageing team-mate Adailton and Marcos Antonio, who was going to get a shot at some top football in the 1.Bundesliga, but proved a terrible signing for FC Nurnberg. Last year, Wesley finished above three players from CFR Cluj, Modou Sougou, Rafael Bastos and Mario Felgueiras, with only the second placed hired by a well-known European name. Olympique Marseille signed him for quite a lot of cash… only to release him after half of season, loaning him to Evian.
Now, some conclusions:
- If you’re a foreign player looking for a stepping stone in Romania, you should try and get a deal with CFR Cluj or FC Vaslui.
- Liga I loves attacking players from abroad, something that can be speculated from a financial point of view, something Kone, Wesley and Kapetanos proved very good at. If you’re not that young anymore, this is a good place to come for some local glory and European currency.
- Left footed players do make a better impression!
- It’s best if you come from South America.
- Just one famous club signed someone from Liga I and it looks like OM quickly realized it was a mistake…
- If you’re a foreign player trying to get to a top European club via Romania, you should…. think twice.
That could be the conclusion of the awards offered today by the Romanian Football Federation and the Professional Football League, with one official game left to play in 2011. Here’s the list:
Best coach: Dorinel Munteanu (Otelul Galati)
Won the league with an average team judging by the players’ quality and, leaving aside some favorable calls from the referees that helped the team cope with the pressure applied by the followers towards the end of last season, Munteanu certainly has done something outstanding. Something that could be compared to what Unirea Urziceni achieved a few years ago. But maybe I should stop, as this would not do any favors to “the best Romanian coach in 2011”, considering the fact that Dan Petrescu’s team went on to collect a record eight points in the Champions League’s group stage, while Munteanu’s men failed to collect a single one…
Munteanu deserves it not just because there’s nobody else with something to show at the end of the year, but because he managed to take the best out of a mediocre team, to create the perfect tactics for the given group of players, to make everyone believe that winning the league is possible in Romania even if your only or, better said, main ability is to work harder than everyone else.
Best player in Liga I: Lucian Sanmartean (FC Vaslui)
Lately, I get the feeling that Romanian players are ready to move abroad only in their 30’s. Buying them with millions, hoping to make a profit, is a costly mistake, because those who indeed have the talent and the skill need around 10 years to get their heads straight and understand what’s this all about. That it’s a job. And it needs dedication. Plus a lot of work. Sanmartean is just an example. Not the best, because the attacking midfielder has had a lot of medical problems in the past and, without them, he could have made it while in Holland or Greece. He’s delivering now and the outstanding skill on the ball has made even Claudio Lotito ask around for his age, after Vaslui’s encounters with Lazio, in the Europa League. He’s too old, as the man was quickly informed, but that’s good news for Adrian Porumboiu, who was able to renew and extend the player’s contract, a proof that Vaslui will continue to aim high for at least two more years. Of course, if Sanmartean will stay fit.
Best foreign player in Liga I: Wesley Lopes (FC Vaslui)
The Brazilian has become this year the best foreign scorer in Liga I and he definitely deserves the title, although very, very close to him I would place Rapid’s centre-back, Marcos Antonio. But this guy doesn’t score often enough and got no help from a team that always looked equipped to win something, but failed for some reason to also become, not just look successful. Also in his 30’s, Wesley forms alongside Sanmartean and Adailton the best offensive trio in Romania and he certainly deserves one of the highest (if not THE highest) wages in Romania. Talented and dedicated, this guy has an incredible eye for goal and it’s a bit of a surprise to hear rumors about a possible move to Steaua in the winter mercato. It’s not the first time he tries to leave Vaslui, but it’s certainly the first time the club’s owner looks willing to accept it…
- Best young player in Liga I: Cristian Balgradean (Dinamo Bucharest)
- Best referee: Cristian Balaj
- Best club president: Iuliu Muresan (CFR Cluj)
- Man of the year: Mihaita Nesu (FC Utrecht)
Interesting fact: not a single winner came to collect the award. Unfortunately, the unlucky, but incredibly brave Nesu has the best excuse of all…