Raul Rusescu has been nothing short of a sensation for FC Steaua Bucureşti this season – next stop, the Romanian national team.
Rusescu has scored 17 times in 19 Romanian First Division outings, already a record tally in the 24-year-old's career. Throw in three goals that aided Steaua in finishing top of UEFA Europa League Group E, and it is easy to understand the clamour surrounding Rusescu.
A model professional who is intelligent and discreet, Rusescu – married to his teenage sweetheart – is as impressive off the field as he is on it. There is, however, one piece of the jigsaw missing. He only made his senior Romania debut in September, figuring as a substitute in the FIFA World Cup qualifier against Andorra, and is yet to earn a second cap. For somebody in such prolific form, the calls for his inclusion in Victor Pițurcă's starting XI is understandable.
"I am just doing my job, which is to score goals," said Rusescu. "I have always respected the decisions of my coaches and I am waiting my turn. Meanwhile, I will do my best to score as many goals as possible for my club."
Rusescu's position is one familiar to Pițurcă, who represented his country on only 13 occasions despite being a penalty-box predator for Steaua and others. Ion Oblemenco, four-time leading marksman in Romania's top flight during the 1960s and 70s, was dealt an even more unfortunate hand and never featured for the national side. FC Dinamo Bucureşti's Ionel Dănciulescu, meanwhile, holds the all-time record for Liga 1 appearances and, with 212 goals, is second in the division's scoring list, yet has turned out merely eight times for Romania.
Now it is Rusescu's turn to sit on the outside looking in. A championship winner with FC Unirea Urziceni in 2009, the forward joined Steaua in summer 2011 and notched 13 league goals in his maiden campaign with the capital club. With Under-19 and U21 honours to his name, it seems to be a matter of time before Rusescu becomes a regular under Pițurcă.
"How can somebody think I have something against him?" said the coach. "From my point of view, he is a very good player, but he is not so quick and does not suit the way I want the team to play. I hope from the bottom of my heart he scores many goals, because we all need goals. Does anybody think there is someone who wants us to win and qualify more than me? I don't think so."
Rusescu's fantastic strike at FC København on UEFA Europa League matchday six prompted Steaua owner George Becali to reveal the team's star performer would be getting a pay rise. "I honestly didn't know how much Rusescu earned, he never spoke about it, proving he has a fantastic character," said Becali.
While all is well on the domestic front, Rusescu's quest for more international recognition could well be a waiting game. "Rusescu is a genuine goalscorer from all possible situations," said Romanian Football Federation (FRF) president Mircea Sandu, who himself played just 18 times for Romania despite 167 top-flight goals. "But the competition is hard, as it was when I played and scored goals. However, the only decision-maker is the coach."
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