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Posts Tagged ‘Liga I’

Buying the Liga 1 topscorer? Not such a good idea…

We might not be 100% about the name of the league winner, considering the fact – and it’s a fact now – that Gigi Becali is such a poor loser that he contested Viitorul’s win and we’ll be expecting from Lausanne a confirmation that FCSB was simply poorly managed and coached and had a bunch of over-paid under-performers instead of a team. But it will come.

What we know for sure is the name of Liga 1’s best scorer in 2016/17: Azdren Llullaku. The Albanian re-invented forward has netted an impressive 16 goals playing for Gaz Metan Medias, a small club that finished the regular season in the play-out zone. What’s also impressive is that Llulaku did all this in half of season, which also got him a contract with Astana.

Now the less impressive stuff: no other player from Liga I managed to at least get close to him, with six more months to play against mostly mediocre opposition. Bud (CFR Cluj), Chitu (Viitorul), Cristea (Iasi), Nemec (Dinamo) and Alibec (FCSB) finished their season with 11 goals. Chitu was the champions’ best scorer, while the experienced internationals Nemec and Alibec fought until the last round for the title. Pathetic return. It speaks volumes about the lack of both real quality and consistency, about the rather chronic inability to play positive, attacking football in Liga I, even at the very top. There are facts to back this up, just think about the last quality no 9 produced by this competition. What’s the first name that springs to mind?

One can also argue that even topping the goalscoring charts in Romania isn’t such a feat. Basically, it offers no guarantees. Let’s leave aside Llullaku, although his record so far (1 goal in 16 appearances for Astana) would only offer the most recent proof of my argument, and let’s have a look at what happened with previous 5 top scorers from Liga 1:

2015/16: Ioan Hora – 19 goals for Pandurii – Hora signed for Konyaspor, who had finished 3rd in Turkey’s SuperLig and was looking to strengthen the team for their Europa League campaign. The Romanian – same profile as Llullaku, a winger who suddenly found his scoring boots when asked to lead the line in a counter-attacking team – struggled badly in his first season; never a starter in the league, scored just once, a useless 90th minute goal in a 3-0 home win, 3 rounds before the end of the season. He proved more useful in Cup games though, scoring twice, but also converting a penalty in the final’s shootout, after he came on the pitch in the 119th minute…

2014/15: Gregory Tade – 18 goals for CFR Cluj – Immediately signed by Steaua, in a classic Becali move, Tade struggled badly in a team that requires a case study, being the most feared and respected by opponents, often superior and always attacking, but so rarely able to produce a prolific 9… Anyway, the French striker only netted 4 goals in 24 games played in Liga I, a return very similar to the one produced in his first season with CFR. But patience is not a virtue you can find in Bucharest and Tade had to endure some rough treatment before he was able to move away and he only found a deal with Qatar SC, under the command of another Romanian coach..

2013/14: Liviu Antal – 15 goals for FC Vaslui – Another prolific winger, another one season wonder. Sold again to Turkey, like Hora, Antal scored once in nine games for Genclerbirligi. Quickly dispatched firstly on loan to Beitar and then to Hapoel Tel Aviv, netted a total of 5 goals in Israel’s top flight for the two clubs, in two seasons. Hapoel was also left with the option to send him on loan and after two halves of season with Pandurii, Antal found again a decent club to sign for: CFR Cluj. His stats this year? 7 appearances – 0 goals.

2012/13 Raul Rusescu – 21 goals for Steaua – Steaua’s last forward to finish first in the goalscoring chart was subject of a surprising and exciting move – at first – in the summer of 2013. Sevilla paid a hefty fee for him, but Sevilla was desperate and Rusescu’s summer smile was gone after a couple of months of more quality signings from the Spanish outfit, who played him just once and sent him on loan first to Braga (5 goals in 13 games) and then to Steaua (4 goals in 21 appearances). Now with Osmanlispor, Rusescu just finished a poor season, after a rather promising start in 2015/16, when he netted 9 goals in 24 appearances in the league.

2011/12 Wesley – 27 goals for FC Vaslui – The Brazilian was a hit; probably the best foreign player to have featured in Liga I. Scored 7 in 16 in his debut season, 12 in 31 in the second, 13 in 32 in the third, before being crowned the league’s top scorer in 2012. But he was not a 9, he was a gifted 10 who, at times, under some clever coaches, played even in front of the back four. His quality though never affected his output and, after 61 league goals in 113 appearances for Vaslui, the ageing Brazilian went to Al-Hilal, scoring more goals, but also a deserved big contract.

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Astra sacks the coach during a live tv show. And picks the new one from the guests!

August 11, 2012 6 comments

Ioan Niculae added another victim to a long list that only shows that he knows nothing about professional football.

The first experience as a coach ended badly for Bogdan Stelea, one of the members of Romania’s golden generation. The bald, strong ex-goalkeeper, nicknamed Arnold back in his playing days, lost only one game during his four-games tenure at Astra Giurgiu (former Astra Ploiesti – the club will change cities this autumn) and was probably surprised to hear that he will have to pack after a second consecutive draw against a newly promoted club.

Defeated by Steaua (3-4) after a win away at Gloria Bistrita (2-1), Astra drew 0-0 vs Viitorul Constanta and, yesterday, 1-1 vs FC Severin, two disappointing, but not terrible results, which kept the team in mid-table, its’ favorite place in the standings. Stelea took part of the blame saying there’s still a lot of work to be done for this newly assembled team, a phrase misunderstood by Ioan Niculae, the club’s owner, who went on air during the same TV show and attacked his coach for branding Astra as a… newly promoted.

Niculae – who’s the wealthiest club owner in Romania, but one who must love mediocrity! – got so carried away during the interview that he went further, in a land that has nothing to do with a professional approach in football. “If Stelea thinks Astra is a newly promoted, then he should start looking for a new place to work. We’re the worst team in Liga I. That’s it, Stelea is sacked!”. If this wasn’t enough, a look at the guests of the same TV show, Fanatik, was enough for Niculae to decide on who’s the perfect man for the job! As the camera moved to Gigi Multescu – former Astra coach who helped Petrolul Ploiesti avoid relegation at the end of last season -, Astra’s owner reacted: “Look, I’ve already found the perfect man to take over! Gigi, give me a call after the show is over, you’ve already worked with me in the past and you know that I want to build a successful team!”

Unfortunately, the show ended before a live negotiation of the contract or some transfers, done to please the new coach. We’re lucky, though! The season just started in Romania and the show runs almost every weekend, from Friday to Monday evening!

Hannover’s target, Younes Hamza, starts the season in style

July 25, 2012 1 comment

Hamza Younes, enjoying the fantastic support of the passionate crowd from Ploiesti.

12 goals scored in 13 matches in the second half of last season meant that Petrolul could avoid an immediate return to the second flight, but also that the 26 years old striker will enjoy some attention this summer. According to the former manager, Valeriu Rachita, the man that signed Younes back in March for 150.000 Euros – a sum that he didn’t even had to pay upfront – the Tunisian had a highest bid of 1,5 million Euros this summer, coming from a 1.Bundesliga club. Later, he revealed that it was Hannover 96 the team that wanted the player, but the yellow-blue outfit had already decided to keep him, offering a new and better deal, lasting until June 2015. A mistake, in my opinion, financially speaking, but a good move for the team’s ambitions, if we look at the way the season started for the Yellow Wolves, with a 5-0 win against Ceahlaul Piatra-Neamt.

Hamza was used upfront, alongside the young Romanian international Gicu Grozav – once at Standard Liege -, and the partnership worked like a charm. If Grozav scored once, offered two assists and was also involved in the move that lead to the last goal, the Tunisian striker scored an impressive hattrick, which gets his average above one goal per match in Liga I! He’s now got 15 in just a few months, while the all-time best foreign striker to have ever featured in Liga I, FC Vaslui’s Wesley, has 62 goals scored since September 2009. The Brazilian scored a brace as well in the first round and the most exciting strikers in Romania will meet next weekend, in a very attractive match scheduled on Saturday evening, in Vaslui.

Title race preview: Steaua Bucharest

July 18, 2012 3 comments

Position last season: 3rd place

Looking back at the club’s yet another tormented season, you could say it didn’t end too bad after all. As expected, Ilie Stan couldn’t finish the campaign and the very experienced and too humble Mihai Stoichita took charge towards the end, with the team showing glimpses of what could be done if everyone would mind his business. Last winter, some quality Romanian players were added to the roster, investments that could pay dividends this year, with the likes of Vlad Chiriches and Alexandru Chipciu already settled, but is it wise to predict that everything will go smoothly under the ownership of Gigi Becali – in spite of all the efforts of Mihai Stoica to protect the team?

Geraldo (right) was released in order to help Gardos (left) secure his place in the first eleven.

Important transfers out: Geraldo Alves (central defender, key player)

I can’t understand how a player like Bruno Alves’ brother, experienced, solid & professional, can be released without a second thought. He played some excellent games in central defense & gave his best in other positions, when the team was in need, and – mark my words – he will be missed this season, when Steaua has decided to promote so obvious the pair Chiriches – Florin Gardos that simply forgot to take into account suspensions or, worse, long term injuries. Alongside Geraldo, the Bulgarian Valentin Iliev – who also provided good cover, making a couple of great matches along the way – was also released and Steaua signed an injured Doru Bratu, from Concordia Chiajna…

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Steaua wins against Dinamo. Great result for the fans, but will it matter in the title race?

Bulgarian centre-back Valentin Iliev, who is running out of contract with Steaua and has been linked with a return to CSKA Sofia in the summer, is the hero of this much anticipated derby, which filled the stands of the impressive National Arena. The 31 years old scored a brace that was enough to seal the win, after Rusescu’s penalty had cancelled the opening goal scored by Alexandru Curtean, after a nice move by Marius Alexe. With Vlad Chiriches again impressive at the back and Cristi Tanase posing a threat with his runs, Steaua ended the game with 22 shots and had almost twice as many clear cut chances to score.

Dinamo paid in the end for a very poor game from central defender Dragos Grigore, while upfront Marius Niculae looked to be struggling physically and lost his breath, feet and ideas on several occasions, and Dario Bonetti, the coach, didn’t miss another chance to have a shot at his players after the match, an approach that won’t help him stay too long at the red and white outfit.

After this huge win for Steaua’s fans (and terrible defeat for Dinamo’s 🙂 ), there are only two points that separates them and FC Vaslui from the first spot, but unfortunately for both teams it’s all in the hands of league leaders CFR Cluj. Betting on the outcome of the title race remains very tricky and all eyes will be on tonight’s Cluj derby, hosted by Universitatea. After the interrupted match on the 8th of May, the decision was to replay the game from the first minute. Strange call, with no logic, as far as I’m concerned, as the incidents took place when CFR was leading 1-0 and the fights started because of Cadu’s goal celebration, but now both Steaua and Vaslui will hope for a favorable outcome, considering the fact that the title race ends in defeat for them in case CFR manages to get all the three points…

Concordia Chiajna, Reghecampf’s small miracle and ticket for a bigger club

April 25, 2012 2 comments

Do look again at the provisional standings after 10 games from the second half of the season! The team in second place, proudly representing a village with just over 8.000 souls, had 10 points after 17 rounds and was looking destined to get back to the second division. Not a lot of people was going to miss Concordia Chiajna, but a few months later now a lot of people would like to come across what has become one of the most effective teams in Liga I…

The club that runs on the Local Council’s money and under the direct command of the village’s mayor Mircea Minea made the right call last December, when Laurentiu Dinita was replaced by Laurentiu Reghecampf, who came along with his wife, Anamaria Prodan, who works as a FIFA agent. The squad suffered massive changes, with 13 players released and 15 brought to try and help the club avoid relegation, 7 of them coming from the second division outfit FC Snagov – one of the clubs Reghecampf had worked for as a coach in the past.

Among them was a certain Idan Baruch, a goalkeeper that offered a terrible and very dubious display versus FC Vaslui, in the second official game of the year, a match that made everyone think that Concordia’s players will only try to make some money before they leave the top flight.

That match was followed though by an excellent run of 4 wins and 1 draw in 5 games, including another incredible result (4-3 away at Petrolul, after being 1-3 down, with three goals scored in the final six minutes!), before the green and white outfit suffered the second defeat of the year against Dinamo. Immediately, they were back among the “relegation favorites”, but six days later another huge result came along and lifted them above the line: a 4-2 away win against now former league leaders CFR Cluj! Before Steaua’s visit to the small stadium just outside Bucharest, Concordia can collect 6 other vital points, versus Vointa Sibiu and CS Mioveni, and Reghecampf could welcome the team he’s already been linked with from an excellent and totally unexpected position…

Laurentiu Reghecampf and his wife, Anamaria Prodan, have quickly rebuilt a doomed squad.

Reghe, the coach

With a career that saw him leave Steaua after three years and move to Germany, where he played for Energie Cottbus, Alemannia Aachen and FC Kaiserslautern, Reghecampf had two spells as a coach with both FC Snagov and Universitatea Craiova (which he helped once avoid relegation) and a short one with Gloria Bistrita, but for some reason he always failed to stay put in one place, in spite of some promising results. He’s now linked with Steaua Bucharest, but it would be a mistake to pay too much attention to Gigi Becali’s daily TV appearances, although the 37 years old is definitely aiming higher and, if he ends this season above the line, it would be a small miracle that could get him either a good move in the near future or at least buy him a lot more time at his next club.

Adi Rocha comes after a long spell on the sidelines, which ruined his adventure at Energie Cottbus.

Who are the new stars?

With eight goals between them, Brazilian forwards Alex (21 years old) and Adi Rocha (26 years old) have impressed in their first matches in Liga I, adding pace and the skill that’s still missing among the rest of the team lead by Vlad Munteanu, a wide midfielder (now 31 years old), who spent the past six seasons in the Bundesliga (with a short spell to Auxerre, in 2008), playing for the likes of Energie Cottbus (just like his coach), Wolfsburg, Arminia Bielefeld and FSV Frankfurt. The team’s captain is Iulian Mamele, a 27 years old central defender playing his first season in the top flight, but one of the nicest surprises comes from 24 years old right winger Adrian Popa, who under Reghecampf scored 2 goals and offered 4 assists, drawing quickly the interest of title-chasing clubs like FC Vaslui.

Title contenders: Dinamo Bucharest

March 5, 2012 2 comments

The Red Dogs spent the winter with their noses in front of a group of at least four other teams convinced they can fight for the title until the very end and have started the year with an important win, 2-0 against Gaz Metan Medias. The club made a bold decision by renting the National Arena for this match (Dinamo’s average attendaces at home have been nothing short of embarrassing) and the players and the fans had a really good first meeting which could pay dividends for the rest of the campaign.

Transfer activity

7 players have left the club this winter, but only 2 departures could have an impact on the first team: Zie Diabate, the starting left back, was sold to Dijon, and the promising (for a few years now) Liviu Ganea was allowed to move to a rival like CFR Cluj, as the young forward was refusing  to extend a deal that was going to expire in the summer.

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