Led by “The Mourinho of Romania”: FC Hermannstadt’s rise and potential fall

The Romanian side have risen through the leagues and have the backing of a former Playboy model. But what does the future hold for Hermannstadt?

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When one thinks of Romanian football, the likes of Steaua Bucuresti and maybe CFR Cluj come to mind due to their domestic success and runs in Europe. However, there is another club on the horizon which is grabbing the attention of hardcore football fans across Europe. 

The story of FC Hermannstadt is a unique one. The club, based in the Transylvanian city of Sibiu, formed in 2015, is now the only club representing the city in professional football. The side were introduced into the league system in 2015, starting in Liga IV, the fourth tier of the Romanian game.

As the information surrounding Hermannstadt is relatively hard to come by online, I spoke to Romanian football writer Viorel Berbece, founder of Ziarul de Sport, to understand their ascent a little better.

Berbece said: “I followed FC Hermannstadt’s ascension with sympathy, as they represent an important city in Romania. They were very solid from the beginning of their existence, but also the level of the lower divisions in Romania was, and still is, very poor. So it came as no surprise that a team that had the financial support and the proper players and coach to get successive promotions.”

The financial support Berbece speaks of is that of Anamaria Prodan, a football agent and ex-Playboy model Anamaria Prodan. The model has almost 650,000 Instagram followers and was previously married to footballer Laurențiu Reghencampf (below).

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Prodan, 47, became President of the club last month and seems intent on further assisting Hermannstadt to rise to the top of Romanian football.

But let’s take a step back. Before the interest from Anamaria Prodan and the club began to get more worldwide recognition, what defined their journey to the top?

After gaining initial promotions to the second tier, Hermannstadt’s coach was one of the main reasons they achieved success, according to Viorel Berbece.

He said: “The level of the Second Division was also quite poor when Hermannstadt acquired promotion. But they also had an expert coach for that level, in Alexandru Pelici. With an all Romanian team in 2017, they managed to not just gain promotion but also to reach the Romanian Cup final.”

This is the moment when the club first began turning heads across Romania. Coach Alexandru Pelici had brought in players he had previously managed elsewhere and Berbece acknowledged their “tactical tightness and enthusiasm” to be key in their road to Liga I

Having reached the top division in Romania, however, Hermannstadt began to realise the change in quality pretty quickly.

Viorel Berbece remembered the struggles the club encountered early on, saying: “So there was great enthusiasm in the city when the team was getting ready for its debut in the First Division. But the shock was too big. Mainly because lots of players from the first team didn’t play at this level before, but also because the team couldn’t play at their home ground for a very long time due to the everlasting reconstruction of the stadium.”

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“Then money became a great issue for the club, even with the arrival of former CFR miracle makers Iuliu Muresan (President, pictured above) and Razvan Zamfir (ex- Bari Sporting Director). Hermannstadt barely avoided relegation in their first season in Liga I. They continue to struggle since then.”

These thoughts make the football fan wonder… Why didn’t the club strengthen the squad in a thoughtful and coherent manner? Hermannstadt signed international players such as PSG reserve defender Kévin Rimane (below on the left, pictured with Kylian Mbappe), a French Guiana international and Ousmane Viera, another defender with almost 20 caps for Ivory Coast.

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It seems these internationals simply are not of the quality to compete against the big boys of Romanian football. The club also brought in ex-Portugal youth players Afonso Taira, Cristiano Pereira Figueiredo and David Caiado but still don’t have enough to even think about challenging the top teams in the league.

The club also allegedly have financial issues which could ultimately lead to their relegation, should they not go down due to their performances. Anamaria Prodan, who took on the challenge of leading the club to success despite its debts, recently brought in Spanish manager Rubén Albés, who she calls the ‘Romanian Mourinho’.

The Spaniard has managed Celta Vigo and Real Valladolid “B” teams and claims to be a huge proponent of Marcelo Bielsa. But, having lost his first two games in charge, supporters are already questioning Prodan’s bizarre admiration for the Spaniard.

Sitting just above the drop zone, Prodan’s Hermannstadt face an uphill battle to stave off relegation. However, should they stay up, it is likely that she will pull some strings to bring in players of a higher quality.

On the matter, Berbece said: “I am sure that if they somehow manage to salvage in the end, Prodan will massively change the squad as she represents players at most of the Liga I teams.”

It is certainly an interesting story and one which is worth checking on. Their meteoric rise to the top epitomises the way in which good coaching and squad building can quickly create success for teams in lower divisions. Equally, their approaching decline shows us that work persistently needs to be done and that no team is ever complete.

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