Having reached the turn of the year just a point adrift of FC Dinamo 1948 Bucureşti at the Romanian 1 Liga summit, FC Unirea Urziceni coach Dan Petrescu could be forgiven for viewing things with rose-tinted glasses. Yet, with finances tight, he believes it would be "a miracle" to earn even a UEFA Cup spot.
Thanks in no small part to an impressive run of six successive wins early on in the campaign, Unirea have been riding high all season. Only a return of one point in two games before the winter break denied them the autumn championship and Petrescu has sought to keep his side performing at a high level, overseeing a 0-0 friendly draw against FC Shakhtar Donetsk in Spain. "It was important to see we can hold our own against the big teams," said the man capped 95 times by Romania during a glittering playing career. "The result gives us hope but it would be a miracle if we were to qualify for the UEFA Cup again. To achieve it we'll need hard work, discipline and players who want to achieve in life."
Chelsea of Ialomita
Unirea, who took part in the UEFA Cup for the first time this season but were eliminated in the first round, may also need the services of striker Bogdan Mara and Australian international Jacob Burns. The pair are the highest-paid members of the squad and have been told they can leave if they find a club, though they will stay if they fail to. Indeed, while the southern side are known as the Chelsea of Ialomita because of their emblem's resemblance to that of the London club, the similarities do not stretch to the economic backing enjoyed by the latter. Not that this is limited to Unirea, and financial austerity has underpinned the winter break, with clubs now taking stock, not adding to it.
A month until the 1 Liga season resumes and Dinamo's transfer activities have been limited to bringing in Senegalese international Ousmane N'Doye from SC Vaslui. Claudiu Niculescu has returned from loan and the club are in talks with Serie A side AC Siena with a view to taking unsettled defender Cosmin Moţi back until the end of the season. By contrast city rivals FC Rapid Bucureşti, seventh but just a point behind third-placed FC Timişoara, have endured a minor exodus with Dănuţ Coman, Pierre Boya, Ionuţ Stancu, Daniel Paulista and Júlio César all departing. FC Steaua Bucureşti have also suffered exits, most notably the record €6m switch of captain Mirel Rădoi to Saudi side Al-Hilal. Champions CFR 1907 Cluj are the only side to really buck the trend after bringing in Serbian forward Rade Veljović and three South Americans. Petrescu perhaps has cause for optimism.
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.