Money. It can't buy you love, so said a certain beat combo from Merseyside, but it can help you make things difficult for your employees in Romania. Even if they used to be a coach of Real Madrid. Radu Baicu picks up the story.
It all began early this summer, when wealthy former international referee Adrian Porumboiu decided to dig deep in his pockets and ensure he’s done everything in his powers to help his club, FC Vaslui, not just make a nice impression in Europe, but also to mount a very serious title challenge.
Finishing third, just behind CFR Cluj and Unirea Urziceni, was an outstanding feat for such a small club, but not enough for its proud and ambitious owner. With the likes of Kuciak, Gladstone, Sanmartean or Wesley, the team had already a solid backbone, so Porumboiu thought that offering a quality roster to a quality coach and his professional staff should solve most of the on-the-pitch problems, his past and current influence in Romanian football ensuring the vital protection in a title race that was expected to get ugly, given Bucharest’s problem in regaining its supremacy. Porumboiu went for a certain Juan Ramon Lopez Caro, recently released from looking after Spain’s U21 team, who also had an eye-catching and respect-imposing spell at the helm of the mighty Real Madrid.
“He signed a three year deal and he’s going to stay for three years!”, said an ecstatic Porumboiu in mid-July, a statement he had to repeat several times, as the team was struggling in Caro’s early days, yet he failed to get to the point where he’d actually believe his own words.
Caro sensed a difficult moment and asked for three more weeks to make the team click, but instead of working with the players available and really try and put the puzzle together, he kept on bringing in new faces and throwing them into battle. It worked with the ex-Seville ‘B’ forward Christian Pouga, but it also failed miserably with the likes of Rodolfo Bodipo, Adailton or the unknown Richard Annang.
Playing around with a 4-2-3-1 and forcing top players to adjust to new roles from one week to the next brought terrible results. Unfortunate to be eliminated by Lille from the Europa League, FC Vaslui lies just above the relegation zone in Liga I, with just one win out of six games and defeats against Steaua, Rapid and Unirea Urziceni; clubs that shared more or less the same status and ambitions at the start of the season.
Seven hour long meetings started to occupy the Spaniard’s free time between training sessions, as he was asked to step down, take his staff with him and, more important, forget the 1 million Euro anti-sacking clause he was wise enough to include in his three year contract when Porumboiu was thinking about the media’s metaphors and shameless comparisons with Los Galacticos.
Surprise, surprise, Lopez Caro is here to stay take the million! The cold war was on, in spite of the owner’s wish to win a blitzkrieg.
Well advised, the coach ignored everything, including the daily dose of garbage fed to the press, and kept turning up at work, finding out that he has no more players to train, nor access to the club’s facilities. The players’ mutiny, lead by Daniel Pancu, but orchestrated by Porumboiu himself, didn’t make Caro think about leaving, while the installment of Petre Grigoras as a “technical director until the coaching role becomes available” was ignored.
Those who say that the man was a mediocre player should see the former Real Madrid coach now. He’s followed by lawyers everywhere, and has even hired a former Secretary of Justice to prove that his right to work has been denied, looking like a true pioneer in the fight against a harmful mentality for Romanian football. Forget about contracts, the man with the money is right!
But this is a fight lost by numerous foreign players and coaches so far, who ran away, when they should have defended deep, tackled aggressively and kicked away everything that was thrown at them. A fight that’s now opposing one man to a crooked system, yet pretty much everyone’s cheering for the bad guys.
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