“I have a quarter of Messi”Gigi Becali, FCSB owner on olimpiu Moruţan
FCSB are either the most historical club in Romania, or the least depending on who you talk to. More commonly known around the world as Steaua Bucharest, a dispute over the ownership of the Steaua logo, honours and name meant the club we know today were forced to rename themselves FCSB, and further legal disputes mean they may lose many of their league titles to CSA Steaua, their former parent club. It’s hard to know just how much these disruptions off the pitch affected their performances on it, but it looks like FCSB could finally win their first league title under their new name, with a crop of incredibly exciting young players leading the way.
FCSB are currently level on points with CFR Cluj at the top of the table in a three-way title race with Universitatea Craiova as the end of season split approaches. FCSB have been astute defensively, with only their title rivals conceding less goals than them, but they’ve easily outscored everyone in the league, and their championship challenge is built on controlling the game in attacking areas and pinning teams back.
There is one man missing from the FCSB side for the second half of the season that up to this point has been pivotal, and his name is Dennis. Dennis Man is a name most Football Manager players will be familiar with, and his sensational form for FCSB in the first half of the season, contributing 14 goals and 6 assists in 18 Liga 1 games, earned him a move to Serie A side Parma, joining compatriot Valentin Mihăilă. This has meant the likes of Olimpiu Moruţan, captain Florin Tanase, Florinel Coman and this season’s breakthrough star Octavian Popescu have had to take up the mantle of scoring FCSB’s goals.
“He has grown a lot, evolution, attitude, efficiency. He’s a leader, but he needs something else to grow. He has changed his attitude and I am happy for him, because I have always trusted him.”Ioan Ovidiu Sabău, former manager and pundit
Moruţan broke through at second division side Universitatea Cluj during the 2015/16 season as a 17-year-old, and in six senior appearances did enough to convince FC Botosani to offer him a contract in the top flight. Eight starts and just over 700 minutes in his first season was followed up by his breakthrough year in 2017, when he accumulated more than 2500 minutes, scoring twice and providing five assists. His ability to play as a traditional number 10 and on either wing, although he prefer to start on the right and cut in on his stronger left foot, convinced FCSB to bring him in and as expected his importance to the side has grown every season.
Moruţan hasn’t been a consistent starter at FCSB until this season, although that didn’t stop him contributing 20 G + A in his previous two seasons combined despite making more than half of his appearances as a substitute during that time. He’s kicked on in 2020/21 though, almost matching that number already this season (17), and as mentioned before, he now has the responsibility to take on some of the impressive goalscoring lost when Dennis Man moved on.
Moruţan’s most impressive attributes are his vision and the way he can dictate the tempo of the matches he plays in. He plays as if he has all the time in the world whenever he’s on the ball, as defenders tend to stand off him, knowing that diving in is likely to see the ball knocked past them, giving Moruţan an opportunity to play the ball to a teammate. Defenders also know that given space, Moruţan will drive forward with the ball at them, and is happy to try and beat his man on the inside or outside, hence why FCSB are so happy to utilise him on either wing.
His contract runs out in 2023, and the overwhelming talk is that Moruţan will follow in Man’s and Mihaila’s footsteps and head to Italy in the summer. FCSB know that with two years left on his contract, and the prospect of him extending that deal highly unlikely, Moruţan’s time in Romania is almost certainly coming to an end, and this represents their best opportunity to make a hefty sum on the youngster.
In this first example, Moruţan (in red, at the top of the first picture) is in possession, squaring up to the opposition centre-back. He shifts the ball to his right, before quickly changing direction and dragging the ball, creating a yard of space and forcing the defender off-balance. This gives Moruţan a split second to look up and assess his options and take an extra touch to create a better angle. Although the more eye-catching run is being made by his teammate in the centre of the box, Moruţan spots Tanase in plenty of space at the near post, and instead executes a much easier cross to find his teammate, who flicks the ball into the goal at the far post. This is a good example of Moruţan’s decision making, as although the flashier pass would have been to attempt to pick out the man making the deeper run, Moruţan is happy to find a teammate in a dangerous area.
When building an attack from the right, Moruţan (on the ball in the opening picture) is happy to dictate the tempo of the game. FCSB are progressing the ball quite quickly up the pitch, but Moruţan steps on the ball, disrupting Botosani’s flow in defending and allowing his teammates to take up better positions. He plays a simple pass down the line (second picture) and then waits until the right moment to sprint into action, catching the Botosani players off guard. The pass he receives (third picture) is slightly behind him, but he’s able to get it out his feet with one touch and play a simple pass across the box that leads to the goal. You can see in the final picture, just how many opposition players are grouped together in the near side of the box, giving FCSB’s players in the middle of the pitch plenty of space. This overload was created by Moruţan taking his time on the ball, and the defenders naturally gravitating to that side of the pitch.
In a game this season against Dinamo București, Moruţan (in possession in all four pictures) shows how he’s able to hold onto the ball in deeper positions with his close control, and then progress the ball forward. After receiving the ball in his own half, he draws in the midfielder marking him, moving towards a second Dinamo player, before quickly flicking the ball to the side, dropping his shoulder and accelerating away from both players. Eventually, he draws a foul much further up the pitch, relieving the pressure his side was under.
In the same match against Dinamo, Moruţan shows his inventiveness in deeper areas, and how he’s able to unlock intense midfield presses to create opportunities for his teammates. Moruţan (on the ball in both pictures) has possession with FCSB’s front three already in front of him, and his two midfield partners both overlapping him narrowly. This allows two Dinamo players to close Moruţan down attempting to block his passing lanes, but he stands them both up and plays a delicate flick between the two of them into the player at the top of the picture, unlocking space and creating a four v. four. Moruţan’s flair is so key to many of FCSB’s attacks, as he manages to play passes and beat defenders in ways they’re unable to anticipate.
In this final example, Moruţan showcases his shooting ability from outside the box. He’s not bothered by the pressure the opposition player puts him under, shrugging him off and then taking a touch to his left before unleashing a powerful effort with his left foot that gives the keeper no chance by flying into the top corner.
As we’ve talked about above, Moruţan’s time in Romania should be coming to an end if he wants to continue striving towards reaching his potential. The comparisons to Messi are obviously exaggerations, but there are certainly aspects of his game that have been inspired by the Argentinian, and although his agent seems sure that Italy is Moruţan’s next destination, if a Spanish suitor were to take interest in him, it might not be the worst move for the exciting Romanian.
And finally on Romania…
A few of Romania’s most exciting young players have already moved on to play for the senior team, which isn’t surprising given Romania appear to be developing a very talented generation of footballers. Dennis Man, Ianis Hagi, Tudor Băluță and Valentin Mihăilă are all not included in Adrian Mutu’s squad, but Moruțan has some esteemed company in the squad going into the group stage. Moruțan is one of five FCSB players in the squad, including Popescu and keeper Andrei Vlad, while Marius Marin and Alex Pașcanu are two of the players to look out for currently plying their trade outside of Romania.
Romania’s opening game against the Netherlands will set the benchmark for just how far this side can go, and things don’t get easier when they take on Germany in their final match, but a win against depleted hosts Hungary should give Mutu’s men a chance of progression going into that final game.
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