Watching from the bench as his CSMS Iași side took on FC Brașov on 29 April was a bittersweet experience for coach Sorin Cîrțu. On the downside, his new team lost; on the up side, he set a record for coaching a 13th club in Romania's top division.
"Honestly speaking, I don't know what to think about this record, but I would regard it for sure as a measure of my work and of my efforts," the 57-year-old, who has also led Romania's Under-21 side and Greek outfit Veria FC, told UEFA.com. "I love working on a daily basis at club level. I am the type of coach who loves being out on the pitch, working every day, and that’s what I want to do in the future too."
Capped seven times by Romania, Cîrțu's managerial odyssey began at his first club, FC Universitatea Craiova, 25 years ago. A creative and inventive left-sided forward in his day, he took to the dugout having won two league titles and four Romanian Cups as a player. As a coach, he built up a team gradually; Universitatea finished fifth in his first season, third in his second, then won the double in his third.
"Those achievements were the highlight of my career – the nicest memories I have," said Cîrțu, who would have two subsequent spells as Universitatea boss. "It was a different era in Romanian history – different people, different approaches, different mentality and a special generation of players. That is what I always wanted – the chance to have a long-term project and to be a success."
Such stability has been hard to find since. His stints at FC Electroputere Craiova, FC Rapid București, FC Oțelul Galați, FC Argeș, FCU Politehnica Timișoara, FC Național București, CS Dacia Mioveni, CS Pandurii Lignitul Târgu Jiu, CFR 1907 Cluj, FC Steaua București, FC Brașov and now Iași have all been strictly short-term, with Cîrțu rarely lasting more than a year in a post.
"I have this reputation as coach who mostly works on short-term contracts at teams that are struggling and have to be saved from relegation," he sighed. "That's why I get asked to step in, as I have been now at Iași. Of course, I would love to work on long-term projects, but if I get offers like these – to work for a shorter period – I have to adapt and to find the right ways and means to reach the target."
Generally working with very little in terms of resources, Cîrțu's speciality is stopping sides from losing games. "My philosophy is quite simple," he explained. "The basis of the game is how to organise a team, and this organisation starts in defence and ends around 30 metres in front of the opponents' goal. I am not always successful, a lot depends on the quality of the players.
"When I started my coaching career, we had a lot of skilful players, but over the decades those extraordinary talents – the old fashioned No10s – have almost disappeared," Cîrțu continued. "Also in Romania, we have had a lack of stability at club level – especially in financial terms. A coach has to adapt, and that's what I have done."
His working life may not be what he dreamed of, but Cîrțu still looks back with pride. "Regardless of my successes or failures results-wise, I have helped develop plenty of skilful players – Adrian Ilie and Iulian Filipescu to name just two," he said. "This also gives me a lot of satisfaction."
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