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Posts Tagged ‘Liga I’

The only way is back?

February 3, 2012 1 comment

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.

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Two rounds to go, two contenders left

FC Vaslui’s title hopes suffered a blow yesterday, when Adrian Porumboiu’s club dropped two points against Astra Ploiesti and lost contact with the first two teams, FC Timisoara and Otelul Galati.

Timisoara had no problems in putting three past Unirea Urziceni, while Otelul’s controversial win away at Victoria Branesti ignited a huge scandal, with the skipper Gabriel Paraschiv scoring from an offside position a late winner to grab all the points and stay on top of the league, with two rounds left to play.

Vaslui ends another season without a trophy and it’s a delicate moment for the club’s ambitious owner sponsor, who had hopes as high as the wages paid to important players like the Brazilian pair Wesley – Adailton or Slovakian goalie, Dusan Kuciak.

Porumboiu and Timisoara’s owner, Marian Iancu, launched an attack not just towards Otelul’s experienced president, Marius Stan, but also towards “dark forces” they have failed to identify.

“They’re trying to show us that anyone but us could win this league”, stated the two, but this is a theory they too have to struggle to understand. The fact is that we’re close to a poor season, marked by the mediocrity of the title challengers and the numerous decisive mistakes made by the referees thoughout a year to forget that will be followed by yet another set of disappointments in Europe.

With two rounds to go, it’s going to be either Otelul Galati or FC Timisoara, as the two teams will meet ,on Sunday evening, on the leaders’ turf in what looks like the league’s Final. Unfortunately, before thinking of a potential match winner within the two teams, it’s wise to wait and hear the referees’ names. It might be there, among the officials…

Three contenders, three rounds to go!

With the big shots from Bucharest trying to book a place in Europa League, after yet another disappointing season, Otelul Galati, FC Timisoara and FC Vaslui have only three points between them, with three rounds left to play, in Liga I.

Otelul grabbed three vital points against Universitatea Craiova, on Thursday evening, taking full advantage of the draw between FC Vaslui and FC Timisoara, and regained the top spot, looking like the favorite not just because of it, but also thanks to the easiest schedule.

Next up for Dorinel Munteanu’s men is Victoria Branesti, an already relegated team, and a win will ensure a lead and the possibility of a draw in the following game, which could be a title decider, as Otelul will host FC Timisoara.

The Viola also have the title in the hands, even if they’re in second place now, three wins out of three being a guarantee for a title that will repay years of some important investments and also reward the always excellent support offered by a beautiful and passionate city like Timisoara.

For FC Vaslui, who badly needed a win against FC Timisoara on Wednesday, but Dorin Goga’s goal cancelled their lucky one goal advantage, have small chances to finish first, in spite of  schedule that would allow them to get maximum points.

Otelul’s schedule:

  • Victoria Branesti – away
  • FC Timisoara – at home
  • Astra Ploiesti – away

FC Timisoara’s schedule:

  • Unirea Urziceni – at home
  • Otelul Galati – away
  • Dinamo – at home

FC Vaslui’s schedule:

  • Astra Ploiesti – away
  • Sportul Studentesc – at home
  • Pandurii Targu Jiu – away

190 goals for Ionel Danciulescu. And counting…

March 22, 2011 5 comments

Danciulescu, 34, has a realistic shot to climb another position in the all-time goalscorers list.

After helping Hercules promote to Primera Division last season, the veteran striker, now 34, received a blow when he was informed that the club from Alicante decided to release him, paying under 50.000 Euros in compensation, in a moment when most of the clubs had defined their rosters for the next season. He decided to return to Dinamo, in spite of a good offer from newly promoted club FCM Targu Mures, “choosing with the heart”, and faced fierce and sometimes unjust competition for a place in the team. Mostly a reserve in the first half of season (7 appearances as a sub, only 5 starts), he scored two goals and needed one more to become the third all-time scorer in the Romanian league.

THE goal was scored and the objective – achieved, four games in the second half of the season, although he had his share of criticism, in the previous matches. But Danciu-gol delivered in the last home game, against the team that wanted to sign him last summer, and he signed his 190th goal in the Romanian first division, in 439 matches!

Top scorers in Liga I:

  1. Dudu Georgescu – 252 goals
  2. Rodion Camataru – 198 goals
  3. Marian Radu and Ionel Danciulescu – 190 goals.

Liga I resumes: a look at the realistic title contenders

February 25, 2011 Leave a comment

…and we’re off! We’re strating with a game decided even before it took place, but we’re off! It has been an interesting winter in Romania, with some important moves on the market. Steaua and CFR Cluj cashed-in big time on their most promising players, Bogdan Stancu and Lacina Traore, with another very good forward by Liga I standards, Ribeiro Moraes, leaving Gloria Bistrita and the country. Even though we haven’t seen any outstanding signings, this should be a very interesting second half of season, with the first division perfectly divided in two categories: title contenders (yes, CFR Cluj, currently in 8th place, still hope to win the league!) and relegation candidates. We have no mid-table teams, a category that should be defined during next month, when we’ll see who had either their hopes or fears killed in the first couple of matches.

Can Otelul hold on and detonate another bomb, just like Unirea Urziceni did two years ago?

Otelul Galati

Otelul kept all the players, which might look good and show ambition, but this was the perfect moment to profit from the rise of Cornel Rapa, the 21 years old right back who’s now an option for the senior national team. They might not get the best price in the summer, unless the excellent physical preparation and tactical discipline from the first half of season will deliver until the end. The league leaders have been discrete as always on the market, signing a second division player and a rather unknown Serbian centre-forward, Bratislav Paunosevac, who could make an impact considering that Otelul lacked options upfront last year. And also generate some profit from a future sale – a trademark buy for the experienced president, Marius Stan. Although they managed to get three points already, Dorinel Munteanu’s men are expected to struggle, with all the stronger clubs taking measures, which translates into extremely motivated opposition in every single game and some dodgy refereeing when it matters. Would be a real surprise to see them holding on until the end…

Poli Timisoara

Undefeated in 18 matches, The Viola will start losing games, as Dusan Uhrin Jr., who returns as a coach, for the fans’ delight, has been asked to take a different approach – try to go for wins and push for a league title that’s in reach.  As usual, Timisoara signed a lot of players, releasing the always over-rated Hristu Chiacu and loaning to Urziceni Ioan Mera, a centre-back that would have had little chances to feature, considering the competition. The experienced Sorin Ghionea was signed on a free transfer, with Nikola Ignijatevic coming from Red Star Belgrade to cover for Sepsi’s imminent departure. Tosaint Ricketts is expected to add pace upfront, something badly missed after Timisoara sold Gigel Bucur to Kuban Krasnodar more than a year ago. This is a solid team all over the pitch and a real title contender, although they miss the players and the coach who can cope with a level of pressure that will increase with every round.

FC Vaslui

Looking at the club’s activity on the market, you might get the wrong idea. The club released Burdujan (forward), Pancu (attacking midfielder), Hugo Luz (left back), Haisan (goalkeeper) and punished severely the Brazilian Gerlem (left midfielder), all of them useful players, who could have helped at least as reliable backup solutions, and couldn’t sign a single name, given the transfer ban that will expire only in June 2011. Still, the old dog Viorel Hizo should be satisfied both in terms of quantity and quality, while these departures could make those who stayed and are a bit more confident about their places in the team to act more responsible and focus on delivering what would be an outstanding and, given the recent investment, a deserved achievement for Porumboiu’s club.

Rapid Bucuresti

In some games, they have played excellent football, looking very strong especially at home, where they simply lay siege on the visiting teams and eventually break them, with the support of one of the hottest crowds in the league. Unfortunately for them, the away form remains a problem at Rapid, no matter the quality of the team or the name of the coach, it has to be down to mentality. I was surprised to see that the club didn’t adress the squad’s biggest problem: adding another quality striker, as the Brazilian Cassio delivers only at home and the talented Sburlea’s too inconsistent and yet to turn into a poacher. They’ve released a few players – Cesinha could have turned some games around! – and signed three players that should add even more strength and quality in defense (the Bugarian international Vidanov) and midfield (the Brazilian Olberdam and the fans’ favorite player, Daniel Pancu). They’re very strong, but the 10 points gap demands from Rapid exactly what they’ve missed in the first half of season: consistency.

The red and white exodus

January 28, 2011 Leave a comment

The first half of season hasn’t been that bad for Dinamo, who lies just outside the places that guarantee a spot in Europa League, but the club was a mess. With less and less support from the fans, increasing financial problems, after the loss of three important shareholders, and a team that Ioan Andone was struggling to control, discipline and unite, the Red Dogs were barking, but not threatening to bite as hard as the other title challengers.

It was vital to act swiftly during the winter break and what the club did might sound suicidal, for the current season’s goals: 9 players were sent away, either on loan or for good, with the following considered regular starters and good enough, in theory, for any team in Liga I:

  • Juan Pablo Garat – 27, central defender, 10 games / 1 goal, released;
  • Ousmane N’Doye – 32, defensive midfielder, 13 games / 5 goals, sold to Astra Ploiesti;
  • Adrian Cristea – 27, playmaker, 17 games / 7 goals, sold to Universitatea Cluj;
  • Florin Bratu – 31, forward, 7 games / 2 goals (on loan to Levski), free transferred to Gaz Metan;
  • Andrei Cristea – 26, forward, 11 games / 4 goals, sold to Karlsruhe;
  • Marius Niculae – 29, striker, 16 games / 3 goals, loaned to Kavala (with buying option);

It only looks suicidal… First of all, because the title was an unrealistic target, given the distance that separates Dinamo from he current leaders, but mainly due to the high number and good quality of the other contenders, with Rapid, Poli Timisoara and FC Vaslui convinced that this is their season. Secondly, in spite of the names and the stats from above, the red and white outfit can still count on some of the finest attacking prospects in Romania, with the likes of Gabriel Torje, Marius Alexe and Liviu Ganea relishing the chance to feature on a regular basis and support the excellent player and professional that is Ionel Danciulescu. There will also be some relief among those responsible in delivering the wages, as the budget will suffer a serious cut and probably allow the entire team to start getting paid on time, on a regular basis.

The only thing Dinamo must do now is to use this month as a foundation for a strategy that has always delivered and keep on betting on young, ambitious players. But, with so much time left before the end of the winter mercato, the recent signing of a 31 years old from the bottom-placed team and the club’s willingness to test unknown foreign players, who are closer to their 30′ than their 20’s, we might be only witnessing Dinamo’s desperation to get rid of the high-earners and intention to buy some more time to prepare another one or two important sales…

Pantilimon and Tatarusanu, defeated! Grahovac is the best keeper in Romania, after half of season

January 6, 2011 2 comments

Grahovac: 9 clean sheets in 18 matches, 78,95% of the shots on goal saved!

It’s that time of the year and Andrei Vochin, probably the only football journalist in Romania who writes and speaks just about football, starts providing the standings with the best players from Liga I, after the first half of season. And it’s no surprise to see up there, as the best keeper in Romania, Otelul’s Branko Grahovac, who managed to keep a clean sheet in half of the 18 games played so far. He is protecting the goal for the current league leaders and he was on the podium at the end of last season too, so the 27 years old, bought for 70.000 Euros exactly one year ago from Borac Cacak, has every right to feel good about this “award” and point the finger at the media that cannot stop praising the likes of Tatarusanu (Steaua – 6th place in the standings) and Pantilimon (Poli Timisoara – 11th!): “This is based on stats, not sympathies, so it means I’m better than those two. I agree, Tatarusanu is Steaua’s best player, but I cannot understand how can Pantilimon be the first choice for your national team!”.

Far from perfect (still prone to the odd incredible goal-causing error), Grahovac should thank not just Otelul’s defense, but the entire team, as Dorinel Munteanu asks the same involvement from every player in protecting the goal and getting the ball back. And wouldn’t look bad at all, if he’d show a little modesty, even if he came to Romania to make money, not friends.

Plesca (Gaz Metan – who did a great job covering the absence of Buchta, who was the best keeper in the league, last season!) and Kuciak (FC Vaslui) are just behind Grahovac in the Top 3, who shouldn’t feel too comfortable in this position if he looks to what happened with the keeper that was leading the standings last winter, Robinson Zapata, who spent on almost a year among Steaua’s reserves before leaving the country on a free transfer, not on a high horse…

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