Warning: try looking at the piece ignoring Budescu’s struggles to adapt there, integrate a hard working environment, the history of Romanian players transferred abroad and sent home after 6 months of disappointment, etc :)
- he’s been scoring more than 10 goals per season in the last 4 championships;
- he’s been the most decisive player in Liga 1 in the past 2 years;
- he forced his way into the national team against the will of Anghel Iordanescu (who had to give in to a lot of pressure from the public and media) and has chipped in important goals already.
Look at the top scorers from Liga 1, with half of season gone, and you won’t see a striker up there. Liviu Antal, a winger, and Eric de Oliveira, a number 10, are leading the charts with 11 goals. That’s a personal record for the FC Vaslui player and a sign of revival from the Brazilian who just got named for the second time the best foreign player in the league. The top three is completed by Astra’s Constantin Budescu, an attacking midfielder who’s enjoying his best season – so, obviously, has to take a lot of stick from Astra’s owner. Strikers do follow, don’t worry, but the first one on the list, in its high section, of course, is… Tunisian: Petrolul’s Hamza Younes. We finally find a prolific Romanian striker in the top flight: he’s Szabolcs Szekely, a 29 years old who’s hardly national team material, even though he netted 9 times for the newly promoted club from Timisoara.
Ok, so Romania lacks a good number 9 in the league, but let’s not forget we had a striker with over 20 goals last season, so let’s have a look abroad… Gone to Sevilla for a decent amount of money, Raul Rusescu played just over 300 minutes and scored 3 goals, ending up on loan to Sporting Braga. But Rusescu was never a real option for Victor Piturca, who relied on two names: Ciprian Marica and Bogdan Stancu. The former Schalke striker signed late with Getafe, but with no real competition within the team collected already 10 appearances in La Liga, scoring just once in the process. Stancu’s doing better, enjoying a decent season in the Turkish league, with 7 goals for Genclerbirligi, but he’ll always be the first to blame after a bad result, Marica’s charisma and clever online presence proving quite useful…
So, with the “established strikers” misfiring both at home and abroad, the obvious solution would be to gamble, something Piturca used to be good at (until caught cheating in casinos…). But can you ask the national team coach to do that with a player like Sergiu Bus, a 21 years old who scored 7 times this season for a newly promoted club, when his own team refused to give him a proper chance to prove himself? Yes, CFR Cluj has a young striker on its books, but would rather loan him no matter where, although there would be a market for a player of this profile. In the past, it used to make sense, with strikers like Kone or Lacina Traore on the books and the team fighting for the title. But now, when CFR’s top scorer is Ogbu, a 24 years old Nigerian, with 4 goals in half of season, and a 7th place in the standings, you might think that something’s not right. I’d say it’s the strategy and it applies to almost the entire first division, but the owners and the fans would rather stick to the usual suspects… CFR just changed their coach and Piturca is not too comfortable either, so we might just need a few more years (or decades?) to realize we could also do with some proper football players…
With 12 goals scored in 22 starts, last season has finally confirmed Constantin Budescu’s talent, easy to notice since he made his senior debut, aged only 16. But having to wait for it until he turned 23 means there is a reason why Astra Giurgiu’s number 10 still gets the stick. It happened after a 10 minutes hat-trick against Viitorul Constanta, in the first round of the new season, as the club owner Ioan Niculae shocked everybody: “Budescu could turn into a great player, but he needs to get his head right. The essence of life is not a juicy stake and it doesn’t matter if you give it all during training if you drink afterwards one liter of Coke…”
The player gave a neutral response and kept his focus, which was definitely good to see and an encouraging sign for the rest of a season that could end up with an important change in his career. Budescu added a brace last weekend, in the 5-2 away win vs Corona Brasov, and now leads Liga 1’s scoring charts with 5 goals, while impressive performances have helped his team overcome the nerves of a European debut. Astra already took out Domzale and Omonia and a 3-1 away win against AS Trencin means the tie is already over. In each of these matches, the attacking midfielder managed either a goal or an assist, having 3 goals and 2 assist after five game played in Europa League’s preliminary rounds.
Eating Going at this rate will surely result in a second call-up to Romania’s senior national team, increase the interest from abroad and decrease the level of criticism he usually has to deal with from his vocal owner. Unless the later has the effect I fear, we might see this player gifted with a great right foot and a technical ability worthy of a bigger league, come winter time he might be quite far from the tasty, but heavy Christmas Romanian cuisine…