As 2013 comes to an end, GSP prepares to reward those who impressed in Liga I. As always, there is room to discuss about their nominations, considering that a youngster like Dinamo’s Dorin Rotariu, who featured in just 25 league games this year (starting in 11 and playing for 90 minutes only 3 times!) is in the race for the “Romanian best player of the year” award, but there is one category that got my attention.
The paper published today a list with the top 3 foreign players in the past 5 years and is very interesting what happened with them, although they impressed over here.
2008 was CFR’s year. Sebastian Dubarbier, an Argentinian winger who was too quick for Liga I, but proved a bad piece of business for Lorient, who spent a lot of cash by there standards in January 2010. A series of loans followed, to Tenerife and Cordoba, and the left footed player finally got a shot at first division football in a top league, once he left Ligue 1 and moved to La Liga, with Almeria.
He had defeated in 2008 his fellow countryman Juan Emmanuel Culio, signed by Galatasaray in 2010, used for 15 matches and then loaned to other two Turkish teams, before allowing him to move to Spain’s Segunda, at Deportivo. Third placed Yssouf Kone had an even worse faith, struggling to move away from Romania and failing to get back to playing football, after his transfer to Valerenga.
In 2009, the versatile Pablo Brandan impressed under Dan Petrescu, helping Unirea Urziceni win the title, but not even 1 and a half years with Steaua convinced a European club to gamble on the former Alaves player, who moved to China. The top 3 was completed by two forwards, Wesley and Pantelis Kapetanos, the most prolific foreign players in the league’s history. The Brazilian was going to become a regular presence in this category, while the Greek striker’s career took a rather interesting turn: although a proven goalscorer with Steaua, the Bucharest side surprisingly allowed him to move for peanuts to a rival, CFR Cluj. His career stalled, yet, for some reason, his former club tried to undone that mistake by taking him back last summer.
2010 was an all-Brasilian year, with current Pandurii star Eric de Oliveira impressing in a number 10 role for Gaz Metan Medias and finishing above Junior Moraes and Wesley. Caught in the middle of a dispute between his former and current club and probably badly advised, Eric forced his escape and did some serious damage to what could have been a better career. He moved to Ukraine and played just 6 games for Karpaty, accepting a return to Medias in 2012, in an attempt to get back on track, something he is finally achieving now with Pandurii, two full years after his best season in Liga 1, in which he scored 15 goals in 31 games.
Junior Moraes and Wesley struggled to convince Western Europe and the former Gloria Bistrita striker initially failed to make an impact with Metalurg Donetsk, but scored 16 goals in 24 games for CSKA Sofia and got himself a second chance with the Ukrainian club.
Third placed Wesley was going to finally win the award in 2011, a second consecutive all-Brasilian year, a feat he was going to repeat in 2012, before getting a great contract from… Al-Hilal. In 2011, he was better than his ageing team-mate Adailton and Marcos Antonio, who was going to get a shot at some top football in the 1.Bundesliga, but proved a terrible signing for FC Nurnberg. Last year, Wesley finished above three players from CFR Cluj, Modou Sougou, Rafael Bastos and Mario Felgueiras, with only the second placed hired by a well-known European name. Olympique Marseille signed him for quite a lot of cash… only to release him after half of season, loaning him to Evian.
Now, some conclusions:
- If you’re a foreign player looking for a stepping stone in Romania, you should try and get a deal with CFR Cluj or FC Vaslui.
- Liga I loves attacking players from abroad, something that can be speculated from a financial point of view, something Kone, Wesley and Kapetanos proved very good at. If you’re not that young anymore, this is a good place to come for some local glory and European currency.
- Left footed players do make a better impression!
- It’s best if you come from South America.
- Just one famous club signed someone from Liga I and it looks like OM quickly realized it was a mistake…
- If you’re a foreign player trying to get to a top European club via Romania, you should…. think twice.
He’s 27. In terms of goals scored last season and proven quality. Otherwise, he’s 31 years old. Which spells “he’s past it”, for those who look at the Romanian league generally to find that player that could generate a nice profit in the next two or three years. But Welsey’s performance doesn’t deserve to go un-noticed. Just like his club, FC Vaslui, which every single season managed to finish in a better position than in the previous one, the Brazilian forward offered more with every year spent in Romania, to live up to the expectations that come with one of the highest wages in Liga I. In 2009, he had 7 goals, adding another 12 in his second season, while in the third he scored 13, just like Galatasaray’s 6 million Euros buy from January 2011, Bogdan Stancu, and the current player/coach of Universitatea Cluj, Claudiu Niculescu.
In the last campaign, though, finished by FC Vaslui in second spot, a single point behind the champions from CFR Cluj, Wesley found the net 27 times (5 times from the spot) becoming only the second player in the past 5 years to score more than 20 goals during one season after the 2nd best all-time scorer in Liga I, Ionel Danciulescu (21 goals in 2007/2008).
Currently on vacation, the goalscorer used by Viorel Hizo, one of Vaslui’s former coaches, even as a defensive midfielder!, is now battling through the media with the owner Adrian Porumboiu. He speaks of the need for a new challenge, with Steaua banging on the door and, apparently, willing to offer more than a joke of a contract like a while ago, when Gigi Becali thought that the club’s name is more important than any installment fee, monthly wage or winning bonuses. That (still) works these days only for young Romanian players and Romanian coaches of all ages… Maybe someone in the club will find the courage to inform the mighty owner that last season Wesley scored more than Raul Rusescu (13), Mihai Costea (6), Leandro Tatu (3), Stefan Nikolic (2) and Florin Costea (1). Even if you add all their goals…
The problem is no other club from Liga I can afford Wesley. Wages aside, the player cannot be allowed to move without a decent transfer fee and leaving aside some interest from Turkey – which I’m personally aware of – nobody seems willing to pay more than 1,5 million Euros in the first season for a proven, mature & quality player with, unfortunately, only two or three decent years ahead of him. If Wesley is wise enough to accept this, he can go on to be not only one of the best (if not the best) paid footballers in Romania, but also remain for a very long time the most efficient foreign goalscorer in Liga I. He’s at the 59 goals mark and hopefully we’ll keep on counting.
PS Oh, and speaking of a new challenge, FC Vaslui will play in the preliminary rounds of the Champions League…
Steaua parted ways with George Galamaz, the centre-back who moved on a free transfer to Universitatea Cluj as soon as the competition stopped, but the former champion with Unirea Urziceni makes way to one of the most promising central defenders in the country.
Vlad Chiriches had signed with the red and blue outfit for a few months and the fresh Romanian international has now completed his move from Pandurii Targu Jiu. He teams-up with a certain Florin Gardos, a player who was basically at the same level a few months ago, but will hope for better fortunes, as Gardos has failed to regain his place in the team, after an impressive debut season.
The second finalized deal involves Alexandru Chipciu, a 23 years old wide midfielder, something Steaua definitely needed, but there’s an interesting issue here: Chipciu has played the majority of his games on the left side, a place occupied by Cristian Tanase, one of the highest rated players in Ilie Stan’s team. Just like Tanase, he’s also right footed, and there’s no way he was bought to compete with Steaua’s number 10. That would mean that the club just paid the reported 1,5 million Euros for a player who is not used to play on the right side of the midfield? Wouldn’t be too surprised, but those who expect an instant impact from Chipciu should have the common sense to offer him some time to adjust…
Wtith over 2 million Euros paid for 2 players, one in an area that was very well covered, Steaua needs some more money to make the team competitive. There’s a desperate need for a reliable right back, with Ifeanyi Emeghara unrealiable, Novak Martinovic not gifted for the role and Gabriel Matei out injured for a long period. There’s nobody in the centre of the park able to either play box-to-box or show at least some playmaking ability. Pablo Brandan, who’s just a versatile left back is now in the position to pull the strings in the middle, with Alexandru Bourceanu very hard working, but limited on the ball.
In spite of all this, Gigi Becali is now very close to adding a new forward to a team that definitely doesn’t lack options upfront. But, if he indeed gets FC Vaslui’s Wesley, one of the best players in the league, it’s worth the extra investment. This is the sort of buy that can provide an instant return in terms of result, exactly what Steaua needs in order to have a chance to make up for the 8 points gap currently separating them from the Liga I leaders, their arch-rivals, Dinamo.
That could be the conclusion of the awards offered today by the Romanian Football Federation and the Professional Football League, with one official game left to play in 2011. Here’s the list:
Best coach: Dorinel Munteanu (Otelul Galati)
Won the league with an average team judging by the players’ quality and, leaving aside some favorable calls from the referees that helped the team cope with the pressure applied by the followers towards the end of last season, Munteanu certainly has done something outstanding. Something that could be compared to what Unirea Urziceni achieved a few years ago. But maybe I should stop, as this would not do any favors to “the best Romanian coach in 2011”, considering the fact that Dan Petrescu’s team went on to collect a record eight points in the Champions League’s group stage, while Munteanu’s men failed to collect a single one…
Munteanu deserves it not just because there’s nobody else with something to show at the end of the year, but because he managed to take the best out of a mediocre team, to create the perfect tactics for the given group of players, to make everyone believe that winning the league is possible in Romania even if your only or, better said, main ability is to work harder than everyone else.
Best player in Liga I: Lucian Sanmartean (FC Vaslui)
Lately, I get the feeling that Romanian players are ready to move abroad only in their 30’s. Buying them with millions, hoping to make a profit, is a costly mistake, because those who indeed have the talent and the skill need around 10 years to get their heads straight and understand what’s this all about. That it’s a job. And it needs dedication. Plus a lot of work. Sanmartean is just an example. Not the best, because the attacking midfielder has had a lot of medical problems in the past and, without them, he could have made it while in Holland or Greece. He’s delivering now and the outstanding skill on the ball has made even Claudio Lotito ask around for his age, after Vaslui’s encounters with Lazio, in the Europa League. He’s too old, as the man was quickly informed, but that’s good news for Adrian Porumboiu, who was able to renew and extend the player’s contract, a proof that Vaslui will continue to aim high for at least two more years. Of course, if Sanmartean will stay fit.
Best foreign player in Liga I: Wesley Lopes (FC Vaslui)
The Brazilian has become this year the best foreign scorer in Liga I and he definitely deserves the title, although very, very close to him I would place Rapid’s centre-back, Marcos Antonio. But this guy doesn’t score often enough and got no help from a team that always looked equipped to win something, but failed for some reason to also become, not just look successful. Also in his 30’s, Wesley forms alongside Sanmartean and Adailton the best offensive trio in Romania and he certainly deserves one of the highest (if not THE highest) wages in Romania. Talented and dedicated, this guy has an incredible eye for goal and it’s a bit of a surprise to hear rumors about a possible move to Steaua in the winter mercato. It’s not the first time he tries to leave Vaslui, but it’s certainly the first time the club’s owner looks willing to accept it…
- Best young player in Liga I: Cristian Balgradean (Dinamo Bucharest)
- Best referee: Cristian Balaj
- Best club president: Iuliu Muresan (CFR Cluj)
- Man of the year: Mihaita Nesu (FC Utrecht)
Interesting fact: not a single winner came to collect the award. Unfortunately, the unlucky, but incredibly brave Nesu has the best excuse of all…
Two foreign, well-paid centre forwards, Mike Temwanjera and Yero Bello, the once promising Razvan Neagu in stand-by, all supported by the best offensive trio in Liga I: Lucian Sanmartean-Wesley-Adailton. This was Vaslui’s impressive striking force expected to help the club respect what’s become a tradition: achieve a better place than in the previous season, with only two options left this term: 1st or 2nd place.
With 0 matches and, obviously, 0 goals in the top flight, Ionut Balaur, already 21 before the start of the current campaign, had the same chances to play and score. A paradox: lacking the numbers, he was there just for the numbers, yet the first occasion to make his debut at this level came sooner than everyone expected. He was going to play with the back at the goal, but not as the centre-forward he thought he was, but trying to cover for the numerous absences from central defense. The former Sporting and Juventus Brazilian, Gladstone, Paul Papp, the young international, Gabriel Canu – the skipper, all suffered long term injuries and the old dog Viorel Hizo was in a very difficult position, with games in the Europa League group stage waiting to give him nightmares in midweek as a bonus for the weekend head-aches. Hizo refused to look for a Mascherano though, was lacking a regular left-back anyway and couldn’t pick someone from the flanks, so he took a chance on the inexperienced big guy that was dreaming to score for Vaslui, not keep others like him from scoring.
He played in the league, but also in Europe, where Hizo’s men ar still in with a big chance to go through, with one game to go and, hopefully, to win. In some of the matches, this guy was all over the place. And I mean that in a good way. Enthusiastic, hard working, very effective in the air, decent on the ball. Losing his man at times, but never his head, as you’d have expected from a player with no experience against the likes of CS Mioveni or Concordia Chiajna, but who had to contain a certain Djibril Cisse on the “Olimpico”…
This guy made his debut in Liga I on the 13th of August and five days later he was starting against Sparta Prague, in the first and decisive leg of the double that allowed Vaslui to reach the Europa League group stage for the first time in the club’s 10 years existence. Two rounds ago, he was scoring the winner in the home game versus Pandurii Targu Jiu, while still playing in central defense. Unfortunately for him, all this won’t make a hell of a difference. Paul Papp and Gladstone are finally back from injury, the team’s striking options remain rich enough, so life should get back to normal for the young centre-forward&back, a role destined only for those who are willing to give it all when time comes, even though the only reward that awaits is a regular place on the bench…
P.S. For the record, Vaslui’s official website doesn’t even include Ionut Balaur in the first team’s page…
The Brazilian ace needed just one goal to break the record established by the Albanese former international Sulejman Demollari, who had scored 36 goals in 100 matches played for Dinamo Bucharest between 1991 and 1995. Wesley scored a hattrick instead, in the 5-0 away win at CS Mioveni, doing all this in style, something he never lacked since his arrival in Romania two and a half years ago.
With 1,5 million Euros paid to Leixoes, FC Vaslui was making this one of the signings that were going to confirm the club’s intentions to keep on improving, aiming for matches in Europe, as well as internal trophies. So far, they only managed to break into the Europa League group stage, stunning Lazio on “Olimpico” with a 2-2 draw in which Wesley himself got both goals. But Vaslui, who every year managed to finish in a better position than in the previous season, look now only two steps away from the league title, after a 3rd spot well deserved in the previous campaign.
With Wesley flanked by Lucian Sanmartean and Adailton, behind a powerful lone striker like Mike Temwanjera, Vaslui certainly boasts the most powerful attack in Liga I and these guys have made up so far for an incredible amount of injuries that has affected the team’s defense. Games versus Lazio or Sparta Prague have shown that they can afford playing a 21 years old striker like Ionut Balaur at centre-back, yet avoid defeats, and the mentioned players also deserve praise for their approach and willingness to track back and give a hand in defense.
Wesley himself, as the team’s skipper, has been an example, but he certainly is of more help this season playing as a central attacking midfielder, after almost an entire year spent as a central midfielder with playmaking duties performed from deep, in a 4-2-3-1, a role that hasn’t kept him from netting an impressive 14 goals.
Still, it was a mistake the experienced coach Viorel Hizo found the strength to acknowledge and the Brazilian has now 7 goals in 9 Liga I matches, using to full service his exceptional eye for a goal, composure in front of the keeper, precise heading ability and simply amazing knowledge of attacking an empty space inside the box at just the right time.
Now that’s something, especially when two of the opponents are Lazio and Schalke 04. Although Rapid managed to win away in Israel, confirming that Razvan Lucescu knows how to approach the games in Europe, Vaslui was again the surprise package, not only because they almost won on “Olimpico”, but because they are still struggling to field a decent defense.
Cisse, Rocchi and Sculli were often frustrated by a back four that contained only two natural defenders, as Viorel Hizo was once again forced to improvise in front of a very young keeper. The Italians might not know it, but Ionut Balaur, the centre-back, is a 21 years old striker, with absolutely zero experience in Liga I, while the left flank was defended by Nemanja Milisavljevic, a serbian left winger who rarely used to track back when used in his natural position.
All credit must go to the experienced Hizo, who wasn’t bluffing when he announced that the team will try to play an open game and he was right to try an keep the ball away from the box, as Vaslui always struggled to contain Lazio when pegged back, even with a one man advantage. With Sanmartean able to dribble in a phone booth, the intelligent Wesley always dropping into space at the right time and Adailton kept on the pitch even when he couldn’t run anymore, for his ability to deliver killer balls, Vaslui might regret the lost points, but shouldn’t, if this inexperienced team in Europe learned something from a contest they had entered with no chances to survive and got so close to come out with the result of their lives.
A much more cautious approach was adopted by Steaua against Schalke, with Ronny Levy clearly going for a draw and rarely thinking to take advantage of the German’s unstable defense. The Bucharest side is obviously struggling to find a new identity and will need time to make the system work with so many new players, with Bourceanu vital to keep things tight at the back and the entire team compact. His impact has been huge and “Romania’s Gattuso” is the only certainty in Levy’s eleven, which has too many centre-backs, but no reliable right back, enough forwards, but not a natural goalscorer, hard working central midfielders with little vision and playmaking ability and not a single wide player able to make the difference. This team needs a lot of work to get going and I doubt the coach will have enough time to put together a puzzle that doesn’t lack quality pieces. The good thing is that there’s realism on the bench and th team is collecting points even in a difficult period.