Reports out of Romania suggest that NYCFC may have found their next Designated Player and the replacement for club icon and legend, David Villa. Over the past week, there were rumors that City was heavily pursuing Alexandru Mitrita, 23 year old Romanian international, who is described as an attacking midfielder who can also play on either wing.
Mitrita currently plays for CS Universitatea Craiova in Liga 1, the top flight league in Romania. The official Liga 1 twitter account stated on January 29th, that a transfer fee of 6 million euros (6.85 million USD) was agreed upon between Craiova and NYCFC. It was also reported that Mitrita would receive a one million euro signing bonus and would have an annual salary of 800,000 euros. This report hasn’t been confirmed by City yet and there are still details that need to be completed first, such as medicals, but this deal looks more and more likely and if completed, will be the biggest acquisition of the off-season for the Pigeons.
Mitrita has scored 12 goals in 16 appearances for Craiova so far in their 2018-2019 campaign, also racking up 4 assists in the process. These numbers are very impressive, however producing in Liga 1 is different than putting up numbers in Major League Soccer. Video footage isn’t very easy to come by, besides a handful of highlight videos here and there, but it’s easy to tell that Mitrita has a knack for scoring goals in a litany of different ways. He can score off set pieces such as free kicks from distance and also in traffic in the penalty area with multiple defenders around him. The only question is, where does he play on the pitch in a squad with depth both in the midfield and on the wings.
It’s clear that head coach, Domenec Torrent likes players with versatility and can play multiple positions, but without a true, number 9 striker on the roster, it’s a big question mark going forward. There were reports that suggested that midfielder Valentin “Taty” Castellanos could potentially play in the striker role, but with only 1 goal in 8 appearances, that doesn’t exactly elicit a feeling of optimism. I do think at the end of the day, that Mitrita will be the focal point of the attack going into the 2019 campaign. The bigger question is what formation City will play in, and who is playing where exactly.
If completed, this signing will be a massive shift in the way NYCFC has gone after players in their history. The club’s first three DP’s were all legendary players in Europe on the wrong side and arguably past their prime. One of which, David Villa was a huge success and did nothing but score goals, lead the team, and ingrained himself in the city and supporters in a way that will be remembered for a very long time. However the signings of English legend Frank Lampard and Italian maestro Andrea Pirlo were major failures, that ate up DP slots and produced very little in the time they were here.
There is a very clear agenda to go younger and bank on potential rather than prior accomplishments which is a blueprint that is conducive to success. Atlanta United did this with young South American stars Miguel Almiron, who is set for a move to Newcastle in the Premier League and 2018 MVP Josef Martinez who broke the single season goal scoring record this past season. I’m not suggesting that young players like Mitrita or even Jesus Medina, Young DP signed last season by the club will have that much of an impact this season, but the emphasis on younger players with the potential to be great is a more rational way of building a contender in Major League Soccer.
Time will tell if Mitrita will be able to replicate the success he’s had in Romania so far, but replacing the production of David Villa is no small task. The hope is that the collective unit will be able to create goals and there are some very solid attacking options, such as winger Ismael Tajouri Shradi who was only second to Villa last season in scoring with 11 goals. Attacking midfielder Maxi Moralez also quietly had an MVP caliber season last year with 8 goals and more importantly 16 assists. This combined with Mitrita’s knack to score goals are signs that City may be able to produce enough to contend in 2019.
NYCFC has just started their pre-season training in Abu Dhabi and their first pre-season friendly is against FC Copenhagen on February 2nd. FC Copenhagen is streaming the match, but it is unclear if that will be available in the United States.
One thing is for certain: City’s squad and identity is finally starting to take shape with the new season right around the corner.