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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…

Three Brazilians on the move: Wesley, Eric de Oliveira and Ribeiro Moraes

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment

They have been the best foreign players in 2010 and they’re either looking to move in search of a new challenge & more money or have attracted too much interest from the bigger teams in Liga I to finish the season at their current clubs.

1. Wesley Lopes da Silva

  • Club: FC Vaslui
  • Position: Forward
  • Age: 30
  • Games/goals this season: 18/6

He’s pushing for the league title with FC Vaslui, yet he wants to move away this winter. Again. Last time he did that, club owner Adrian Porumboiu applied the “star treatment”, making the Brazilian the team’s captain, in spite of an attitude he used to punish severely (Carlos Costly is probably still regretting for trying to do things “the hard way”). This time, I doubt there’s something that can be done, as the excellent attacking man (who scored six goals even if he had to play as a central midfielder, in a 4-2-3-1!) will be entering the last six months of a 300.000 Euros/season deal, but he’s wrong if he thinks that this in enough to ease his way out of Vaslui, even if clubs like Steaua and especially CFR Cluj have small chances to finish the season above Porumboiu’s team.

2. Eric de Oliveira

  • Club: Gaz Metan Medias
  • Position: Attacking Midfielder
  • Age: 25
  • Games/goals this season: 18/9

Add 7 assists to the 9 goals scored this season and you’ll get the picture: he’s been in hot form since the start of the season and cannot continue under Pustai’s command, although he’ll have a hard time finding a finer coach in Liga I and a similar group of players&friends. He has to try, though, to prove himself in a more challenging environment, as he’s got the age, the experience and the quality to make it at a higher level and he’ll move this winter, in spite of all the problems Gaz Metan have been trying to create, since they’ve realized that they could lose their star player for nothing. His contract with the Romanian club will expire in June 2011, in spite of recent reports spread through papers too lazy to check the information handed to them by Gaz Metan’s board.

3. Aluisio Chaves Ribeiro Moraes Junior

  • Club: Gloria Bistrita
  • Age: 23
  • Position: Forward
  • Games/goals this season: 15/8

He’s at the end of an excellent first year and he should move now if he wants to take advantage of the inspired decision to come to Romania, to such a small club and pressure-free environment, like Gloria Bistrita. His brother’s recent release has reduced close to zero the reasons to continue at the club, but the question is who is going to satisfy the old fox Jean Padureanu. He’ll want cash&players, plus a little help to have a safe season, out of a deal that should not go through for less than a million Euros, in spite of visible and laughable efforts from the Becali brothers to decrease the player’s market value through some repeated comments in the media. Ribeiro Moraes is one of the few complete attackers this league has seen in recent times, a skilful creator and finisher, a free kick specialist, the kind of 2 in 1 forward that could help any team that misses both a playmaker and a striker.

Transfer analysis: FC Vaslui

December 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Adrian Porumboiu wanted to make this Vaslui’s year and went on a spending spree that should have added more quality to an already solid roster, offered to the former Real Madrid coach, Ramon Lopez Caro. A few of the signings were requested by the Spaniard and what followed went on to prove that it’s not the wisest thing to do, with Lopez Caro getting the sack after a poor start and a huge scandal. Rodolfo Bodipo was packed and sent back home immediately, David Rivas never featured again and David Campano doesn’t feel too comfortable either…

Best transfer Read more…

Transfer analysis: FC Timisoara

December 10, 2010 1 comment

A more discrete presence on the market than in the past, Timisoara managed to sign three players that were going to play an important part in the first half of the season: Ovidiu Burca, on a free transfer, Helder, on loan from Nancy, and the former Inter Milan signing (back in the days when his huge potential had enough years ahead to be fulfilled), Ianis Zicu. The results were better than ever, with the team finishing the year unbeaten, even after a quite long spell under the command of an unexperienced coach like Cosmin Contra, and this strategy offered the chance to shine to players like Axente or Scutaru, talented youngsters bought a few years ago, who were used to be sent on loan or kept on the bench.

Best transfer Read more…

Round 17 – results, scorers, standings and highlights

December 1, 2010 Leave a comment
  • Unirea Urziceni – Sportul Studentesc 2-1 (Maftei 47, Semedo 72 / Balan 18)

Vital win for Octavian Grigore’s men, who came back from behind to take all the points and make it almost impossible for Sportul to avoid relegation. The goals came from two players that have big chances to leave Urziceni this month, so Unirea isn’t in a much better position either, as I expect them to struggle even to keep the current roster, so there’s no chance that it might get better after the winter mercato.

  • FC Vaslui – Pandurii Targu Jiu 3-1 (Wesley 40, Bello 45, R. Costin 50 / Voiculet 48)

Quite unlucky defeat for Pandurii, as the home team was extremely efficient and punished the guests in three consecutive plays. A lesson of pragmatism and a second consecutive fortunate win for FC Vaslui, who climbed into third place after this round and makes everyone wonder how Hizo’s men will be stopped when they’ll start to play some football and look like an organized team. They’re currently lacking some quality at the back and the coach is too keen to keep all the stars happy. Fielding them at the same time often makes Vaslui play with 5 defensive players and 5 forwards, a way to unbalance team to sustain a long run of good form & positive results. Read more…

Can’t open up the opposition’s defense? Then open your mind!

November 22, 2010 1 comment

When Cristi Pustai decided to hang up his boots and grow a beer belly , he chose a path no other ex-footballer with money, cars and hot chicks on his mind would have dared to step foot on. He decided to teach maths in highschool and his return to the game he had abandoned after a rather modest career as a striker was very similar to the always sudden appearance of a teacher in class, after recess: he found everyone out of place, talking very loud, with some preoccupied to “study” in a couple of minutes what they should have prepared at home and the others playing the so-called mind games that, in the absence of a brain and a solid education, ends up in useless and grotesque abuse.

A calculated coach. Cristian Pustai knows how to add points and multiply Gaz Metan's value

It was a class of boys who once were very good in practice, but who are now terrible when they have to explain the theory. And you can see the results in a league that might look like a tight affair, with everyone prepared to defend their ground and the points at stake, but, in reality, it’s only a physical battle (too) often decided by a terrible mistake, not by some special individual or collective move.  It’s Liga I, the competition that highlights Pustai’s intelligence and ability to think outside the box of how to get the ball inside the penalty box and in the net. Thanks to his work, Gaz Metan Medias is pushing for a place in Europe, in spite of some fierce competition, which often goes overboard, leading to some strange to terrible refereeing decisions, as well as the dreadful suspicions of a fixed match every once in a while.

Maths is what remains in the back of your head, after you’ve forgotten everything else. It helped me in my coaching career as well – it created some shelves, where I deposit all my gathered data and keep my knowledge well organizedRead more…

Rapid can win the league, if they’ll manage to finish it!

October 26, 2010 1 comment

George Copos and Rapid have high hopes for a club with such a low level of professionalism!

Second place in the league, impressive displays especially at home, biggest chances to win the league according to the bookies. This is Rapid? Well, yes, but not exactly. The club’s problems are bigger than the lack of consistency when playing away, the poor quality of their strikers or the increasing tensions from a dressing room full of players who (think thay they) deserve a place in the first eleven, especially in goal. They surfaced in the press this morning and speak not only of the already mentioned financial troubles, but also of some poor management from the board and a lack of professionalism that had been experienced in the past, at Rapid.

Here’s the list of problems that could affect the team’s performances and results sooner or later:

  • the players haven’t been payed for more than two months and were hoping to see some cash after last round’s away win at Sportul; instead, they got yet another promise that this will happen after the derby against Steaua. Which is scheduled almost two weeks from now.
  • Brazilian striker Cassio Vargas and the team’s second scorer this season was thrown out of his appartment, as the club failed to pay the rent since August. He was moved with his wife and two kids to another flat, close to his team mates Rui Duarte, Ezequias, Marcos Antonio and Bozovic, where he should follow Rui Duarte’s example, who didn’t wait for the club to pay the rent, as he would have found himself in the same delicate situation as the striker…
  • The Portuguese Candido da Costa had the surprise to find his appartment without gas and electricity, problems that angered so much Vladimir Bozovic last season that the Montenegro international left Bucharest and threatened not to return at the club.

“I have to feed my family. I was supposed to send money back home, to Portugal, but I haven’t done that for the past two and a half months” – Rui Duarte, Portuguese full back, bought from FC Brasov this summer

As this is no premiere, Rapid should look beyond the expected financial trouble, which affects pretty much every Liga I club this season, and realize that there’s something wrong in the structure and the work of what was supposed to be one of the best organized professional clubs in Romania. The club’s owner, George Copos, loves to point to the board lead by Dinu Gheorghe everytime something goes bad and has a habit of complaining about the difficulties of running a club these days. Still, he was the one to accept in the first place last summer’s overspending and he was the one to jump for joy at Rapid’s wonderful displays from the start of the season. Staying on the sidelines and waiting for your employees to fail just to say “I told you so” at one point doesn’t look very smart to me. In fact, makes Rapid look like a ticking bomb, watched carefully by a sadistic, self-destructive owner…

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