Lucian Sanmartean has been designated the Player of the Year in Romania.
Although extremely gifted and very promising while playing for under twenty-one sides, many footballers later manage only lackluster shows with lesser known sides in the domestic championship or either choose to give up this career altogether. This is the story of many players in Romania. Few are those who eventually make it big in the domestic championship and in the major football events abroad. One needs more than talent in order to match the performances obtained by former football stars like Nicolae Dobrin, Gheorghe Hagi or Cristian Chivu.
Lucian Sanmartean was given this chance at the age of 34, upon a promising career fraught with periods of inactivity due either to injuries or conflicts with coaches.
Sanmartean took a huge leap forward in February this year, when he signed up with Steaua Bucharest, a watershed moment, which marked a series of performances that grabbed pundits’ attention, who designated him the best Romanian footballer of the year.
Sanmartean had a considerable hand in Steaua’s winning their 25th championship title and in their qualifying for the Europa League groups. He was also the best footballer of the Romanian side during its qualifying campaign this autumn, his shows making a big difference in the matches against Finland and Northern Ireland. He put on an excellent show in the game against Hungary during the 67 minutes he was on the pitch; his replacement caused a chink in Romania’s defensive line, which was capitalized upon by the visitors who leveled the scoring a few minutes from time.
Lucian Sanmartean was born in Bistrita, northern Romania on March 13th 1980 and made his debut in the professional football with local first-leaguer Gloria Bistrita in 1998. He became part of Romania’s under-19 lineup in 2000 and three years later he was transferred to Panathinaikos Athens in exchange for 900 thousand euros. In his first year with Panathinaikos, the Greek side won the country’s championships and Cup. Sadly he was unable to play for the following two years due to injuries and his conflict with coach Alberto Malesani. He played for a while with Dutch side Utrecht and held talks with Ajax and Eindhoven but he got injured again and had to leave Holland in 2008.
He returned to Gloria Bistrita again but became part of FC Vaslui’s lineup back in 2011, when they managed their first qualification in the Europa League’s groups. Italian side Lazio would hire Sanmartean at a time he was still under contract with the Moldovan side, which managed to keep him until their demotion to the second league in 2013. Coach Laurentiu Reghecampf summoned him and Sanmartean soon found his place in Steaua’s lineup.
Coach Ioan Ovidiu Sabau even described Sanmartean as the best Romanian footballer since Gica Hagi. Either we agree with this statement or not, one thing is sure – Sanmartean is Romania’s best football player in 2014.