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
- Otelul Galati – Pandurii 1-1 (Iorga 30 / Vranjes 45)
- Astra Ploiesti – Unirea Urziceni 0-2 (Galamaz 31, Rusescu 69)
- Ceahlaul – Politehnica Iasi 1-0 (Vasilache 70)
- Steaua – FC Brasov 1-0 (Plesan 6)
- Dinamo – Gaz Metan Medias 1-0 (Alexe 57)
- International Curtea de Arges – Rapid 1-2 (Bacila 9 / Grigorie 51, Sapunaru 58)
- Universitatea Craiova – FC Timisoara 1-2 (Iliev 32 / Goga 7, Magera 90+3)
- FC Vaslui – Unirea Alba Iulia 3-0 (Wesley 48, 61, 90)
- CFR Cluj – Gloria Bistrita 1-0 (Y. Kone 40)
Yesterday afternoon, Romania’s youngsters lost the friendly against Switzerland, in the last game that they’ll be playing ahead of the U19 tournament that will take place in Budapest, between the 2nd and the 9th of May, where they’ll meet teams like Portugal, Greece and Hungary.
Romania’s goal came from Alexandru Lazar in the 3rd minute, but the Swiss side came back through Charyl Chappuis just before the break and scored the winner in the 72nd minute after a goal scored by Granit Xhaka.
Romania’s first eleven: Bucuroiu (Udinese) – Beţa (Sportul Studentesc), Cioranu (Sportul Studentesc), Mladen (AS Roma), A. Sava (CS Otopeni) – Stoian (AS Roma), Bejan (Steaua), Chindriş (UTA Arad), Al. Lazăr (Steaua), C. Matei (Farul Constanta) – Ţucudean (UTA Arad).
Switzerland’s first eleven: Spiegel – Goncalves, Lacroix, Veseli, Rodriguez – Tosetti, Chappuis, Cokicli, Xhaka – Drmic, Kamber.
After escaping the threat represented by Gigel Bucur, who moved from Timisoara to Kuban this winter, Pantelis Kapetanos used the first official match of the season to break away from the other players that are fighting for the Romanian golden boot award. He scored Steaua’s only goal in the surprising home loss against Ceahlaul and was the most dangerous player on the pitch for the red and blue outfit in a match that got off to a perfect start, but ended up as a real nightmare. Read more…
- FC Brasov completed the signing of Dusan Savic. The 24 years old comes from Rabotnicki, where he scored 10 goals in 16 appearances in the first half of season. The forward accepted to take part in a trial during the winter break, but only today his transfer was finalized. Savic signed a contract until the end of the season, with the option to extend it in the summer, and will have to fight for a place in the team with Dorel Zaharia (32), Catalin Dedu (22), Attila Hadnagy (29) and Sabrin Sburlea (20).
- Martin Zivny (28) agreed to sign a contract until the end of the season with Dinamo. The Bucharest side now awaits the clearance and the player’s papers from Austria Karnten and the central defender could even make it in the squad for Dinamo’s next official match. In case Zivny leaves a good impression, the club can activate a clause in the summer and extend the deal for two more years.
- 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…
Group D: France, Romania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Belarus, Albania, Luxembourg.
Basically, we’re fighting with Bosnia for the second spot and those who think that this national team can win against the big boys should pray that the point(s) won against France will be enough to compensate those we’ll probably waste against Albania or Belarus…
Focusing on the double against Bosnia, I think that Bosnia has the edge, as football tends to favor those who dare to attack, while Romania has been shaping up as a very organized and defensive team under Razvan Lucescu. And I don’t blame the talented coach, in fact he should be appreciated for acknowledging our new position in football and trying to re-inject the underdog’s mentality, the only one that paid dividends (remember the counter-attacking skills of Italy ’90 and USA ’94!) for a team that, in recent years, lacked the right approach.
Lucescu’s job is to keep the mentality and team spirit that managed to keep France at bay during the last campaign, but find the right approach for the matches Romania will have to win. Oh, and, yes, the right players…
Right now, our NT doesn’t look promising. The only positions well covered are goalkeeper (Coman and Lobont), central defenders (Chivu, Radoi, Tamas, Goian). We also count on Rat at left back, on the likes of Ghioane, Apostol and Tanase in midfield, and on Marica upfront. And I’d take out Apostol and even Marica, although he looks in better shape this year, but, in order to do that, other players must step in and this is Lucescu’s challenge: finding the new wave of players until September and the guts he lacked in the previous campaign, when he should have had a different approach, as the second spot was already lost, when he took over from Victor Piturca. But he went from handing a debut to the promising Mihai Roman (24) on the right wing to recalling veteran Bogdan Mara (32), from changing the team’s atitude to regularly calling the very talented, but also very lazy and inconsistent Adrian Cristea.
So, who will play at right back, can we find someone better than Nicolita on the right wing (Szekely, Roman), can we rely on the fragile midfield pair Ghioane-Apostol in the middle of the park, can we still count on Tanase on the left wing, if Steaua will play him as a mezzapunta, who’s the centre forward that should team-up with Marica, upfront? These are the questions…