Backed by tycoon ex-referee Adrian Porumboiu, SC Vaslui are challenging Romania's Bucharest giants and have already won through the UEFA Intertoto Cup.
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While Steaua, Dinamo and Rapid will all be in continental competition this season following top-four finishes, seventh-placed Vaslui had to do it the hard way via the UEFA Intertoto Cup. Aiming to match FC Oţelul Galaţi's triumph in last summer's tournament, the European debutants had a bye to the third and final round. Here, they overcame the setback of losing the first leg 2-1 at PFC Neftçi by beating the Azerbaijani side 2-0 on Saturday to reach the UEFA Cup second qualifying round. It was reward for president Adrian Porumboiu's €2.5m close-season investment in players.
It was also no small achievement for a club from one of Romania's poorest regions, founded in 2002 and with just three years' top-flight experience. "We had a little luck in the second leg, but in the end we deserved our qualification," said Vaslui coach Viorel Hizo. His squad are reportedly on €50,000 a man to progress to the UEFA Cup group stage, but first they await Friday's second qualifying round draw. Striker Mike Temwanjera said: "Let's take it step by step. We have achieved our first goal. Competing in Europe makes you feel like a real player. I also want to play against these big teams so that we can test ourselves."
Porumboiu, a UEFA referee observer as well as a farming tycoon, also recognises the value of European football, having funded one of the biggest wage bills in Romania at Vaslui. With Slovakian goalkeeper Dušan Kuciak, defenders Dănuţ Munteanu, Gabriel Cânu and Hugo Luz, midfielders Marian Aliuţă and Stanislav Genchev and striker Lucian Burdujan, the former FIFA official has built a capable team. They followed up their European success by defeating Steaua 1-0 in their Liga 1 opener on Wednesday. The president's target of a top-five finish looks realistic indeed.