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Romania: a gold mine for football talent

Romania have been unlucky in recent years ? poor results in tournaments and qualifications or just missing out due to stupid mistakes made by the manager and players have cost them. Despite beating the likes of England, Spain, Netherlands, Germany (Romania beat them 5-1 in 2005) on several occasions in ? Continue reading ?

Romania have been unlucky in recent years – poor results in tournaments and qualifications, or just missing out due to stupid mistakes made by the manager and players have cost them, despite beating the likes of England, Spain, Netherlands and Germany (Romania beat them 5-1 in 2005) on several occasions in recent years.

There’s always been something – or in fact, many things – stopping them from reaching their potential. Players’ mentalities, awful selections and tactics made by managers, and the most talented players wasting their potential for various reasons are all part of the reason Romania are now seen as just a somewhat average side nowadays.

As this article is meant to be about Romanian youth, let’s not go into too much detail over those issues. While the 80′s and 90′s were a special time for Romanian football (both club-wise and for the national team), it’s possible that this upcoming generation could bring Romania back to being the world class side it used to be.

That is, if those involved don’t screw it up the way they have in the last decade or so. The good news is, loads of young Romanian players are popping up directly in top leagues like the Serie A, La Liga and Bundesliga.

It’s much better for players to start their youth careers in these top leagues immediately, as in Romania they are likely to be held back by managers or owners, and their potential wasted (although some of the clubs in the league seem to be improving their mentality).

Now, let’s get on to business. Here are some of the top U-23 Romanian prospects at the moment. Of course, this isn’t intended to give you the full view of future Romanian stars, only a sample. There are many players I won’t list with loads of potential that could become top players anyway.

Goalkeepers

Laurentiu Branescu

The 18-year-old Juventus keeper has been dubbed “the next Buffon” by the Italian media, and is being held in high regard by club staff. Before signing with Juve, clubs like Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United were extremely interested in him but were not able to secure his services in time.

He doesn’t have very many weaknesses, his handling and reflexes are top notch, and he’s a great young keeper overall. He is currently the main keeper for Romania’s U19 national team. Potential rating: 5/5

 Valentin Cojocaru

The 16-year-old Steaua Bucharest stopper is widely regarded as one of the brightest young talents to come out of eastern Europe. He’s been attracting a lot of interest from clubs such as Liverpool in recent times, and despite his young age, could find himself at a top club very soon. Potential rating: 5/5

Silviu Lung Jr

The 23-year-old keeper currently plays for Astra Giurgiu, who are currently in second place in the Romanian Liga I. Russian giants Zenit St. Petersburg were close to signing him during the January transfer window, but unfortunately the deal didn’t go through.

He has loads of ability and can pull off amazing saves, but sometimes can make stupid blunders, which have cost him. But he is very talented and still has his whole career ahead of him. Potential rating: 4/5

Defenders

Chiriches

Dubbed the “Romanian version of Thiago Silva,” Vlad Chiriches is one of the most hyped Romanian youngsters at the moment. The 23-year-old Steaua Bucharest is truly a phenomenal young defender.

He is not only great at the back, but he is very technical for a defender. He dribbles well and often adds to his side’s attacks and has scored a handful of beautiful goals this season (both in the EL and the league).

Several big clubs are after him, including Barca, Milan, Chelsea, Inter, and Lyon. Some have made offers of up to 7 million euros, but the crazy owner has refused them asking for a minimum of 10 million euros.

He will most likely leave for one of these big clubs in the summer. I don’t see them backing down after his most recent performances in the Europa League. He certainly has a bright future ahead of him. Potential rating: 5/5

 Valerica Gaman

Gaman currently plays for Astra Giurgiu, who currently lie in second place in the Liga I, and is a very good CB prospect. Although he is 24, I will make an exception as he just turned 24 yesterday.

Like Silviu Lung Jr, he was also close to signing with Zenit but it didn’t happen. He is a talented defender, great in the tackle, and also great at heading the ball. Potential rating: 3.5/5

 Alexandru Matel

23-year-old RB at Astra Giurgiu. Despite having a slight injury problem, his performances for both club and national team have been impressive recently. He definitely has a lot of potential. Potential rating: 4/5

Paul Papp

The 23-year-old Chievo Verona central defender joined in the summer from FC Vaslui. He scored on his debut for the club, and while he isn’t yet a regular (for some reason), he still has made an impact in the games he’s played in the Serie A and for the national team. Potential rating: 4/5

Cornel Rapa

The 23-year-old promising right-back signed for Steaua Bucharest from Otelul Galati in the January transfer window.

After Matel, he is the biggest Romanian RB prospect at the moment, and has been a solid performer this season and the last. Potential rating: 3.5/5

Constantin Nica

The 19-year-old Dinamo Bucharest right-back has three U21 caps to his name and looks to have a bright future. Potential rating: 4/5

Alin Tosca

The 20-year-old versatile defender and midfielder can play as a right-back, left-back, and as a right midfielder. He is one of the top young defenders in the Liga I at the moment and plays for Viitorul Constanta (Hagi’s club & academy). One to look out for. Potential rating: 3.5/5

Bogdan Tiru

18-year-old Viitorul Constanta central defender who’s been on trial at Ajax and has good potential. Potential rating: 2/5

Midfielders

Gabriel Torje

Nicknamed “the Romanian Messi,” Torje is probably the best prospect of all. His technical, dribbling, and finishing ability is phenomenal. He has lots of pace and has a very similar style to Messi (and a similar stature), therefore the comparison.

He has been on fire for the national team this season, and although he scored a couple of goals, racked up some assists and played well in his debut season at Udinese, he is currently on loan at Granada in the La Liga. Fiorentina made an offer for him, but he had already agreed to go on loan.

The 23 -year-old winger has aroused interest from Arsenal and Real Madrid in recent times. With his natural talent, he should have a great career and has the potential to be a star at any club.

Potential rating: 5/5

Claudiu Bumba

Bumba just turned 19 in January and has been playing for Roma’s primavera team since the summer of 2012, after the Italian giants paid 600,000 euros to secure his services. He is probably the best young Romanian player at the moment after Torje (although Torje is older), and maybe Stanciu.

His most notable achievements so far this season include scoring a goal in the Supercoppa Primavera final to help his team win the trophy, scoring 4 goals in 16 matches (making him the club’s third top scorer, with the other two having played more matches) in the league and, more recently, scoring two goals against Spartak Moscow in the Viareggio Cup.

He also has several assists and is the captain of the Romanian U19 national team. Potential rating: 5/5

Nicolae (or “Nicusor”) Stanciu

The 19-year-old FC Vaslui youngster has been widely sought by big clubs across Europe. He is definitely the best teenage talent in the Liga I at the moment, and probably the best Romanian prospect in midfield after Gabriel Torje and Claudiu Bumba.

He is generally regarded as a creative CM, but also plays well on the wings and has great speed, technical ability and finishing. He has scored several beauties this season and in the past, both in the league and in Europe.

He also captains the Romanian U21 national team and made his Liga II debut at the age of 15 years and 18 days, coming on as a substitute. During his spell for Unirea Alba Iulia, Stanciu was tracked by various European clubs, including Hoffenheim, Celtic, Brescia and VfB Stuttgart. Potential rating: 5/5

Alexandru Maxim

The 22-year-old attacking midfielder is yet another young Romanian star in midfield – he’s one of the best dribblers on the Romanian national team and has impressed in the 5 matches he’s played for Romania (in which he managed to score 2 goals).

He recently joined German Bundesliga side VfB Stuttgart. Potential rating: 4.5/5

Adrian Stoian

It’s incredible how many creative, young midfielders Romania has begun to produce. Here’s yet another one. Adrian Marius Stoian, a 22-year-old winger, is a product of the famed Gheorghe Popescu (former Real and Spurs defender) Academy and joined Roma in 2008.

Between 2008 and 2012, he’s only made one first team appearance, coming on as a substitute against Juventus in a Serie A match in March of 2009. While it may seem odd that he only played in one first team match, one should take into consideration his age at the time – he was only 18 when he made his Serie A debut.

Since then, he’s gone on loan to Pescara and Bari, where he had an excellent season. In the summer of 2012, he joined Chievo in a co-ownership deal of 500,000 euros which involved Michael Bradley going the other way.

Since joining Chievo, he’s played in 11 matches and scored 2 goals, and put in some fine performances. With a little more time and faith from his manager, he could develop into one of their best players, and Roma may very well buy back the other half of his deal! Potential rating: 4/5

Vlad Nicolae Marin

The 17-year-old left winger was involved in a controversial move last summer. He was playing for Lazio’s youth side until Manchester City decided to offer him a contract without Lazio’s permission and sign him for free. This of course angered the higher-ups at Lazio and City were forced to compensate them with 300,000 pounds.

While I haven’t seen much of him, it seems like he could be an extremely good player if City snatched him up like that and Lazio reacted the way they did. Oddly, though, he hasn’t been capped at any youth level for Romania yet. Potential rating: 5/5

Alexandru Chipciu

Chipciu (pronounced ‘Keep-choo’) is a 23-year-old attacking midfielder and winger currently playing for Steaua Bucharest. He’s played 7 matches for Romania and has scored one goal (in a friendly match against Greece).

His performances at Steaua this season, both in the Europa League and the Liga I, have attracted a lot of attention from bigger clubs and have gotten him call-ups to the national team. He may not be Romania’s #1 midfield prospect, but he’s certainly a great option and I’m looking forward to see where he ends up in the future. His main strengths are dribbling, crossing, passing, and a good first touch. Potential rating: 4.5/5

Liviu Antal

23-year-old right midfielder Liviu Antal had his first taste of the UEFA Champions League experience last season with Otelul Galati. He put in some thrilling performances against the likes of Manchester United, SL Benfica and FC Basel.

In the 2012/2013 season, he joined FC Vaslui and scored his first goal for the club in a 1-1 draw against Fenerbahce in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round. He made his debut for Romania (and his single appearance to date) in a friendly match against Paraguay in 2011.

He’s not at the top of the picking order but he’s still one of the better young wingers in Romania. Potential rating: 2.5/5

Chitu

The 21 -year-old left winger is a rising star at the Romanian club owned by Hagi, Viitorul Constanta. He’s scored 3 goals and racked up 3 assists in 20 matches in the Liga I. His value has been steadily rising in recent months, and it looks as though he may find a new club in the summer. Potential rating: 2.5/5

Gabriel Iancu

The 18-year-old Gheorghe Hagi Academy product and former Viitorul Constanta player (both owned by Hagi) midfielder is one of my favourite youth players at the moment. Ajax and Galatasaray have been in close contact with Viitorul for several months, however he’s now at Steaua Bucharest after joining in the January 2013 transfer window.

He is a very reliable and mature player for his age and should turn out to be a top player. Potential rating: 4.5/5

Dan Nistor

Nistor is 24, however I will make an exception as he fully deserves to be mentioned here. He is the best young Romanian DM at the moment, despite only having one cap for Romania, and has put in stunning performances at Pandurii this season (who are currently third in the league).

He’s a good passer of the ball and can set up attacks with ease. He is also solid at the back when needed, and is an ideal DM for a lot of clubs. Potential rating: 4/5

Mihai Radut

The 22-year-old DM has the potential to surpass Nistor, although at the moment the latter is probably better. He spent part of his youth career at Sporting CP in Portugal and now plays for Liga I leaders Steaua Bucharest and is currently on loan at Pandurii.

He has been capped by Romania three times, which is quite an achievement for a DM of his age (Nistor only has one, surprisingly).

Will be an important national team player in the future and asset to most clubs who would be interested in buying him. Potential rating: 4/5

Raphael Stanescu

Born in Germany, 19-year-old attacking midfielder Andrei Raphael Stanescu is one of the best products of Dinamo Bucharest’s academy, and has been capped for Romania U19 4 times, scoring one goal. He has played 5 first team matches in the Liga I for Dinamo and scored one goal. Potential rating: 3/5

Andrei Tugui

Andrei Ionut Tugui is a 17-year-old midfielder and the captain of the Romanian U16 national team. He joined Roma on loan (with an option to buy) in the January transfer window and has impressed the coaches there.

He is just one of the many Romanian youngsters at Roma, but is probably one of the brightest talents after Claudiu Bumba. Potential rating: 4.5/5

Strikers

Dragos Iacob

This 16-year-old striker, currently playing for Frosinone’s youth, is considered one of the most valuable teenagers in Italy. His family moved to Italy in 2001 so he is eligible to play for Italy. However, he has already been asked to play for their national team but he declined as he states that his dream is to play for Romania.

He was the club’s top scorer year after year and was nicknamed “The Cannibal” by the Italian media because of his aggressiveness and determination on the pitch. He also helped his team win the “Manchester United Premier Cup” last season and won both his youth league and the Italian Super Cup for his age group.

According to reports, stats and videos, he seems to have loads of potential and could very well be a super star in the future. Potential rating: 5/5

Rusescu

I have to make another exception – Raul Rusescu is 24 years old, but is the top scorer in the Romanian league and has scored several beautiful goals this season, both in the EL and Liga I. He is just unbelievable and will probably move to a bigger club in the summer.

He has scored 31 goals in 51 matches since joining Steaua in 2011. He’s made a single appearance for Romania, but will surely be capped again soon. Potential rating: 5/5

Gheorghe Tucudean

The 21 -year-old Standard Liege striker is the best U21 Romanian striker at the moment. He has scored 3 goals in 5 matches for the U21 national team and 9 goals in 12 matches while on loan at UTA Arad in 2010.

After joining Standard from Dinamo Bucharest this January transfer window, he’s played two matches for the Belgian club without scoring; however he has had several great opportunities and looks certain to score soon. Potential rating: 3.5/5

Denis Alibec

The 22-year-old striker is currently on loan at Viitorul Constanta from Inter Milan. While at Inter, Alibec scored 8 goals in 9 appearances in the Campionato Primavera Girone B and won the Viareggio Cup in 2011.

He is a left-footed player and is known for his composure, balance and relaxed way of playing. He has scored 3 goals in 5 appearances for Romania’s U21 national team, and has been capped once for Romania’s senior team in a friendly match with Poland in February 2013. Potential rating: 4.5/5

Gheorghe Grozav

The 22-year-old winger, who has also been employed as a striker with good results, is currently playing for Petrolul Ploiesti who are in fifth place in the Romanian Liga I at the moment. He’s also played 15 matches for Standard Liege before coming back to Romania, and has scored 5 goals in 19 matches for Petrolul this season.

He’s been capped for the senior national team 9 times and scored 3 goals. Potential rating: 3.5/5

Fabian Himcinschi

Himcinschi is an 18-year-old striker currently playing for Empoli’s youth team. He’s played 6 matches for Romania’s U17 NT, scoring an incredible tally of 9 goals. Potential rating: 4.5/5

Marius Alexe

Alexe turned 23 on February 22nd 2013, and is a left winger and second striker for Dinamo Bucharest. He has played in 95 matches for the Liga I club, scoring 24 goals. He’s also played for Romania’s senior team 7 times. He is best employed as a left winger as he isn’t a ‘poaching’ type of striker. Potential rating: 2.5/5

George Puscas

The 16-year-old striker currently plays for second division club FC Bihor Oradea, but has been on trial at Arsenal recently after he impressed the Gunners’ scouts in a Romania U17 match.

He seems to have a good deal of potential; however, he may not fulfil it if he doesn’t actually end up signing with a big club like Arsenal. Potential rating: 4.5/5

Cristian Gavra

The 19-year-old Viitorul Constanta striker went on trial with Ajax recently, and the club seem interested in securing his services over the summer. He’s scored 5 goals in 8 matches for the Romanian U19 national team and is regarded highly by Hagi himself. Potential rating: 4/5

Published with permission from oalmasri.

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