The news that your top striker will be leaving the club in the summer as a free agent might not be good news for fans of most clubs, but for Debreceni VSC, the manner of Gergely Rudolf's move to Genoa CFC is a triumph.
To fans in Debrecen, there is absolutely no doubt that the 24-year-old is the club's star player, helping them to win a fourth title in five years with 16 goals last season. Having returned to his native land in 2007 after starting his career in France with AS Saint-Étienne, few expected him to spend the rest of his career in Hungary, but as far as the club were concerned, cashing in on their prize asset was not an option.
With Rudolf's contract at Debrecen expiring in the summer, the club might have been tempted to get some kind of fee for the player in the winter, but as it was, they were happy to allow him to move to Genoa for nothing in July provided he stayed to help them for the remainder of the season. An official statement read: "We hope that Rudolf will help the team to keep the title and get a UEFA Champions League qualifying place again."
With Debrecen second in the table, two points adrift of FC Videoton and two clear of fancied Újpest FC, the spring campaign is likely to be a tough one. However, while niggling injuries prevented Rudolf from playing a full role in their autumn season, a record of four goals from the seven league games he played in suggests that his contribution could well be crucial when their campaign resumes against Diósgyőri VTK on 20 February.
Debrecen – as a city and a club – likes to see itself as an entity apart from the rest of Hungary. Known locally as the 'Calvinist Rome', Debrecen is a largely Protestant city in a predominantly Roman Catholic country, while the club, nicknamed the 'Loki' (the Locomotive) for their long association with the railways, were eager not to be seen as a side that needed to be railroaded into selling off their best players if that meant letting supporters down.
Thus, Rudolf's exit has been something of a triumph; the club did not sell him, while the player has foregone his wages for the final months of his contract as a farewell gesture and will not be thinking about his Serie A career until the summer. "I really like the city, and now I want to help the team to win the trophy," the player from Nyireghyaza added of his next test. "We are second, but I have faith in myself and my team-mates."
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