Gheorghe Popescu has shocked Romanian football by signing a two-year contract with FC Dinamo Bucuresti.
The 35-year-old agreed to join the champions today, ending months of speculation about his future since he left Italian side US Lecce at the end of the 2001/02 campaign. It had long been considered that the only club in Romania he would play for would be FC Universitatea Craiova, where he had two spells between 1985 and 1990.
'I'll do my duty'
"I am happy that I found a club where I can make an impression," Popescu said. "I never said that I'd only play for Universitatea. First of all, I am professional player and I'll do my duty and my job at Dinamo."
Popescu, who was in the Romania team that reached the quarter-finals of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, has been training alone for three months while waiting to find a new club, and revealed that he had contemplated quitting because of the difficulty in securing a contract. The defender, who had been training with Dinamo's rivals FC National Bucuresti in recent days, was left out of the Romania squad earlier this week for the friendly against Greece on 21 August.
He said: "Dinamo's offer came at the right time and I'm glad that I'll be back in action. And I'm doing it only for having the opportunity to play further for the national team. Three days ago, when I saw that I couldn't find a team, I decided to quit football. But the national coach [Anghel Iordanescu], spoke with me and convinced me to find a club as soon as possible, because he wants to rebuild the national team and he needs me and because there a very difficult EURO 2004™ qualification campaign is coming up."
Moldovan in charge
Popescu will become the first signing by new Dinamo coach Ion Moldovan, who took charge yesterday. Moldovan was brought in after Dinamo's elimination from the UEFA Champions League last week and failure in the Romanian Super Cup at the weekend.
Apart from Universitatea, the only other Romanian club that Popescu has played for is FC Steaua Bucuresti. He was forced to join them in the 1987/88 season by Romania's then communist regime but he left at the end of the campaign. He returned to Universitatea in the 1988/89 season and stayed until leaving for PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands. His career then took him to Tottenham Hotspur FC in England, FC Barcelona in Spain and Galatasaray SK in Turkey before finishing his travels in Italy.
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