Torje, Stancu, Deac, Ionita. Four young players who have moved abroad in exchange of some hefty transfer fees, but have failed to deliver. Is it only their fault?
When Manchester City decided to sign Costel Pantilimon on a permanent deal, the current leaders of the Premier League have only confirmed that the best way to approach a transfer that involves a Romanian player is by a) doing some proper scouting and b) go for a loan with a buying option. I’ll explain with the case of the four names mentioned above:
Gabriel Torje (Udinese)
The hype around him was incredible and not even a month had gone by since his Serie A debut and the Romanian press was full of rumors speaking about interest from Arsenal and, why not?, Barcelona. We were talking after all about „Romania’s Messi”. Everyone overlooked the fact that Torje had to play regularly for 4 consecutive seasons in Liga I to convince a foreign club come up with the millions, everybody was talking about the leagues ability to still deliver top young players, although, at 21, over 90% of the Romanian players have less than a full season of games under their belt. And they’re both too old and lacking enough top flight experience to attract the sort of bids the unrealistic owners expect.
Indeed, Torje had a promising start in Italy, with three assists in his first three games, but the fact is: he never lasted for 90 minutes on the pitch; he didn’t score a single goal; he slowly lost contact with the first eleven and, lately, with the team, playing his last game on the 18th of December.
Still, although I expect Arsenal and Barcelona to have called back to base their scouts :-), it’s way too early to call him a flop. Apart from the struggle such a small sized player raised in Romania would face in order to adjust to the Italian style, Torje also pays the price for being part of a team that uses the worst possible tactical setup as far as he’s concerned. He’s a natural winger who cannot play on the right side of a midfield of five, with no fullback behind to provide cover. He’s also not at all comfortable upfront and it’s not really a surprise to see a wide player struggling in the middle, in front of compact and expert defensive lines. If Guidolin had gambled on Torje’s ability to adjust, it’s an expensive and losing bet. Which leads me to the second case.
Ciprian Deac (Schalke 04)
I wasn’t surprised to see Deac heading for the Bundesliga and was actually convinced that he would deliver. Until I’ve read Felix Magath’s statement: „Deac will be our number 10, our playmaker.” Another natural left winger, this time gifted with less technique and flair than Torje, but definitely very well prepared physically and counting on a very good left foot, was going to struggle. Although the training sessions had convinced him that even one of the fittest players in Liga I will need time to adjust to the extremely exciting German league, he also realized that the tactical challenge was too big. After 90 minutes of Bundesliga football and a lot more days of sharing the dressing room with the legendary Raul, Deac had to return to Romania to regain his match fitness and his confidence. With 5 goals and 4 assists in 17 matches for Rapid, playing as a wide forward in a 4-3-3, he looks again in good shape, but will probably never play for Schalke again. A case of poor scouting? Or bad judgement from Magath? Because Deac wasn’t like Ionita, my next example.
Alexandru Ionita (FC Koln)
After one season in Liga I and 10 goals in the top flight, Ionita was moving to 1.Bundesliga in exchange of more than 2 million Euros. The coach was Zvonimir Soldo and he was so keen on the striker that Ionita collected 105 minutes for FC Koln. In 1 and a half seasons. Okay, Soldo was sacked in the meantime, but now the striker had to hope that he’ll be allowed to take the same route that saw an impressive number of Romanian players return home with more money in their bank accounts, less memorable game. Actually, with the last official game difficult to be remembered. Poor scouting, terrible decision to pay such a fee upfront on a striker with no Liga 1 experience by the age of 21, who had a promising first season in the top flight. Unlike Deac, who minded his business and tried hard in training to earn chances to play, Ionita was clever enough to “win over” the fans by saying their girlfriends, sisters or wives aren’t that pretty. After that he probably failed to score at all while in Germany, not just in the eight Bundesliga appearances as a sub.
Bogdan Stancu (Galatasaray)
Bought by Galatasaray when Gheorghe Hagi embarked on another adventure as a coach, this was a deal that I never bought as real, based on footballing matters. When a player rated at not more than 3 million Euros goes in January for double that sum, it’s something that will eventually affect the guy everyone will be looking at on the pitch. After 13 goals for Steaua in Liga I (again, we’re talking about the first solid season of his career!), the 23 years old added just 2 in 14 matches in the Turkish first division, playing mostly as a left winger (totally out of position) in a troubled Galatasaray’s squad that was going to quickly offload their legendary former player and leave Stancu’s future in limbo. Impossible to get back in Liga I so quickly and with that wage – the player also stated his ambition to succeed abroad -, he nailed a good move with the loan to Orduspor. He’s playing mainly as the only striker (again, not his best role, but close enough) and the results are encouraging, although some Turkish followers of my Twitter account say he’s not good enough for Galatasaray, the 8 goals in 24 matches for a mediocre team prove that he’s quality. Not 6 million Euros quality, but as Romanians say, a fool isn’t the one who asks for the money, but the one who accepts to pay.Follow @rbaicu
After yet another poor year, the Capital clubs Dinamo, Steaua and Rapid have renewed their hopes of returning to greatness. Let’s take a look at three names that need to (finally) deliver, if the Bucharest big shots are to stand a chance against the always ambitious and recently better organized teams from the rest of country.
- Name: Marius Niculae
- Club: Dinamo Bucharest
- Position: striker
- Age: 30
The former Sporting Lisbon forward has failed to deliver since his return to Romania. He spent the second half of last season playing (and scoring) for Kavala – 4 goals in 12 appearances, in the Greek SuperLeague, but the club refused to make the deal permanent. Back in Bucharest, Niculae had to accept a wage cut and it will be interesting to see if he cares indeed for Dinamo or he’s just saying what the constantly decreasing number of fans love to hear.
With the best active scorer in Liga I by his side – Ionel Danciulescu, now 35 years old, scored a total of 193 goals in the Romanian top flight – and fueled by the most promising wingers in the country, Gabriel Torje and Marius Alexe, Niculae should deliver more goals than excuses in what promises to be another inconsistent season for the Red Dogs.
- Name: Cristian Tanase
- Club: Steaua Bucharest
- Position: attacking midfielder
- Age: 24
If Steaua wants to have a better season, a player like Tanase definitely needs to start looking like a genuine number 10. A right footed attacking midfielder who settled for a position on the left wing, the Romanian international has often drifted from inconsistent to simply useless, since his big, sorry, huge money move from FC Arges, three years ago. Numbers speak for themselves: one goal scored last season and a total of five in over 120 matches in Liga 1!
Predictable, lacking determination and the mentality (not the quality) to step up and act like the decisive player he was supposed to be, he fails to pose a threat with his shot, doesn’t get into scoring positions and simply cannot deliver quality balls in the last third.
With such a “discrete” no. 10, it’s no wonder Steaua struggled to fashion goalscoring chances and find the net even in the easiest of games. Now, under yet another coach, but involved in a playing style that should suit him even better, Tanase has the chance to prove a point. Otherwise this might just be his last season at the once great Bucharest club, although I get the feeling that the red and blue outfit has started to get used to the mediocrity of recent years…
- Name: Ciprian Deac
- Club: Rapid Bucharest
- Position: left winger
- Age: 25
One of Felix Magath’s flops, Deac comes after a poor season with Schalke 04, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if the chance to take showers alongside the likes of Raul and Huntelaar has convinced the Romanian international that he’s among the greatest players alive. Presented by Magath as a number 10 – still amazed by that statement! – Deac will certainly have enough chances to redeem himself in the one year long loan deal. Razvan Lucescu used to play him in the national team even when he was severely lacking match fitness, but the blonde winger certainly has a tough job ahead. Rapid parted ways with the likes of Cesinha and Juliano Spadacio, two of the best left footed players this league has seen in recent year, and will find it hard to accept another year without a serious title challenge.
Looking at the players selected for the vital game versus France, it’s fair to say that Lucescu Jr. has bigger problems than who should wear the number 10 shirt, an artificial issue which kept the media occupied for days. With Sapunaru and Radu back in the squad, Romania looks solid enough at the back to worry “only” about the rest of the team.
- Goalkeepers: Costel Pantilimon (Poli Timisoara), Bogdan Lobont (AS Roma), Ciprian Tatarusanu (Steaua)
Lobont will definitely start in goal, in spite of his obvious fear to catch a ball, with both reserve keepers inconsistent and, in my opinion, in mediocre form. Rapid’s Bornescu had a string of top performances, is mature enough and very confident, and I wonder why an ex-goalie like Lucescu overlooked him.
- Defenders: Cristian Sapunaru (FC Porto), Vasile Maftei (Unirea Urziceni), Gabriel Tamas (WBA), Cristian Chivu (Internazionale Milano), Marius Constantin (Rapid), Stefan Radu (Lazio), Razvan Rat (Shakthar Donetsk), Mihai Nesu (FC Utrecht) Read more…
All the praise received by CFR’s number ten this season seems to produced the expected results. Media reports from Germany speak today of Schalke’s interest in Ciprian Deac, the move that could take place for a fee around 3 million Euros being also described as “imminent”.
Knowing that Schalke also signed a certain Raul, I cannot wonder what recommends Deac for such a high profile transfer, besides the rather artificial hype created in Romania. The young international – who featured in Romania’s last friendly and is also regarded as an important player for the qualifying campaign that is about to kick-off – doesn’t seem ready for a move to a stronger league. He’s still quite inconsistent in Liga I, has had a rather poor start of season, being moved around on the pitch in uncomfortable positions, with Mandorlini trying him even as a central attacking midfielder, a role that has nothing in common with his main qualities. A natural winger, gifted with a decent left foot, Deac impressed only on the left side of an attacking trio, showing good control and pace, in a direct style of play that makes him eager to take on direct opponent. In fact, his game relies on his ability to free himself from his marking man and take his shots, still looking too selfish, and I believe that he’s rather poor when it comes to take the right decision under pressure. He also lacks the mentality that would allow him to cope with Bundesliga’s demands (same goes for the Premiership and the other leagues where referees aren’t encouraging professional divers), as he’s an expert in knocking the ball past his opponent (his favorite move) and going down at the slightest touch, a habit even Stuttgart’s Ciprian Marica fails to get rid of.
Ok, he has pace and a better left foot than most of the other Liga I players and has definitely developped as a player in the last two years, but he still has a lot to learn, which makes him look overrated at 3 million Euros…
- Unirea Alba Iulia – Ceahlaul 3-2 (N. Jovanovic 27, 90, Fl. Dan 44 / I. Badescu 35, Cebotaru 53)
- Astra Ploiesti – International 1-1 (Carando 81 / Apostu 28)
- Unirea Urziceni – Pandurii Targu Jiu 3-0 (Apostol 25, Marinescu 39, Martinovic 78 og)
- Gloria Bistrita – Dinamo 3-2 (Ribeiro Moraes 23, 88, Nastase 45 / Cl. Niculescu 12, Andrei Cristea 32)
- Politehnica Iasi – Otelul Galati 1-1 (Badea 52 / Ochirosii 30)
- Rapid – Steaua 5-1 (Ionita 7, 17, Cesinha 22, M. Constantin 33 pen, Helder 73 / Kapetanos 14 pen)
- FC Brasov – Gaz Metan Medias 3-2 (N. Grigore 11 pen, Sburlea 39, Hadnagy 49 / A. Munteanu 57, Litu 77)
- FC Vaslui – Universitatea Craiova 0-1 (Al. Piturca 71)
- FC Timisoara – CFR Cluj 1-1 (Alexa 90+8 / Deac 56)
Next round (23-26 April): Ceahlaul – Astra Ploiesti, Dinamo – Politehnica Iasi, Pandurii – FC Brasov, Otelul Galati – Rapid, CFR Cluj – Unirea Alba Iulia, Gaz Metan Medias – Gloria Bistrita, Universitatea Craiova – Unirea Urziceni, Steaua – FC Timisoara, International Curtea de Arges – FC Vaslui.
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).
- After a turned down offer from the Ukraine Football Federation, Mircea Lucescu has been also offered the chance to become Russia’s national team coach. “Il Luce” has a contract with Shakthar Donetsk until June 2011, but missing the title at the end of the current season could determine the Romanian coach to take up a different challenge, after five years spent at Rinat Ahmetov’s club.
- Ousmane N’Doye (31) says he would agree to extend his current deal with Dinamo, which is due to expire at the end of the season. Read more…