Mirel Rădoi may shed a tear as he leaves home after completing a record €6m move from FC Steaua Bucureşti to Saudi club Al-Hilal, saying: "It is sad to leave my team-mates, but there comes a time when you have to."
The Steaua captain, 27, has signed a three-season contract with Al-Hilal after spending the last eight and a half years with the Bucharest giants. The €6m fee received by the club has easily broken their previous record for an outgoing player set when Gheorghe Hagi left the club for Real Madrid CF for the equivalent of €3.4m in 1990.
The influential defensive player will be reunited with his former Steaua coach Cosmin Olăroiu at Al-Hilal, and said modestly: "I was not an outstanding player for Steaua. I was a normal one who did what he knew best and gave everything every time I went on the pitch. It is sad to leave my team-mates, but there comes a time when you have to."
Few will begrudge Rădoi his chance of a lucrative move abroad, with the former FC Extensiv Craoiva player having failed to secure a dream move to a western European club earlier in his career. He leaves Steaua with three titles, two Romanian Super Cups and fresh from his third successive UEFA Champions League group stage appearance.
A model of absolute commitment, since 2004 he has suffered 13 injuries – six of them serious – which have conspired to sideline him for more than a year. His only regret is that he "did not play in the UEFA Cup final" after Steaua got as far as the semi-finals under Olăroiu in 2005/06. "We were so close," remembered Rădoi.
Despite all those injuries, Rădoi managed to score 12 goals in 186 league appearances, and three more in 50 UEFA club competition games – only Marius Lăcătuş, with 71, represented Steaua more in Europe. Unsurprisingly, he also became a regular for Romania, with one goal in 49 caps, including an injury-blighted trip to UEFA EURO 2008™.
Given those statistics, Steaua owner George Becali was loath to deny the player a transfer, saying: "I wanted maybe €7m or €8m, but the Saudis wouldn't pay more than €6m, so I decided to let Mirel go to give him the chance to earn more." Rădoi has earned his move, then, but how Steaua will fare without their leader is a big issue he leaves behind.
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