Having led Rijeka to the Croatian title, Russian manager Vladimir Latunov continued his Soviet Surge across Eastern Europe by joining his seventh club in six countries. And that side was FCSB in Romania.
Who are FCSB?
Fotbal Club FCSB play at the 55,634 capacity Arena Nationala and have good youth coaching, exceptional youth recruitment, excellent training and superb youth facilities. They have a balance of £19 million, which is about £10 million less than Rijeka had, and a transfer budget of £11 million and weekly wage budget of £195,235 to work with.
Latunov’s new side are the favourites to win the Romanian title. They have done so five times through this save and most recently in 2026, but finished second last season, which prompted them to sack their manager. So no pressure there then! Biggest challengers include Viitorul, who’ve won the last two titles, Cluj, who won the title before that, Universitatea Craiova, Dinamo Bucharest and Astra Giurgiu.
The board also has a lot of expectations, including attacking, entertaining, possession football that makes the most of set pieces. They also expect the manager to sign young players, which shouldn’t be a problem, and maintain the best youth system in Romania.
Meet the FCSB squad
The best player at FCSB is midfielder Nicolae Fritea along with goalkeeper Romeo Curtean, centre-back Victor Prokhorov, and Emil Fajic, Latunov’s former midfielder at Rijeka. But three players to build the squad around are strikers 17-year-old Petre Moscu, who’s the best prospect at the club, 16-year-old Catalin Ancuta, and 20-year-old Andrei Dumitrescu.
Latunov bolstered the ranks with two of his Rijeka players in loanee midfielder Mateja Buser and winger Kingsley Coman, who cost just £250,000. He also strengthened in defence with Serbian centre-back Nemanja Vesic, as well as midfielder David Salaoru from Craiova and full-back Drago Horvat. However, he wasn’t able to register any of these new signing for the first few games. And from his initial look at the FCSB squad, Latunov decided to start with a counter-attacking 4-3-3 DM formation.
Getting to work in Romania
The Romanian First League begins with a regular season where all 16 teams play each other twice then splits into a Champions Playoff and a Relegation Group.
The league began less than one week after Latunov’s arrival. And it began with a tough challenge at rivals Astra Giurgiu. FCSB came out and started well but couldn’t find a goal to show for it until right-winger Denis Rusu volleyed home from a free-kick and that was enough to edge a 1-0 opening day win.
Game two swiftly followed and FCSB made a great start through left-winger Raoul Mal before Rusu scored again just before half-time to seal a 2-0 win. A local derby saw a trip to Dinamo Bucharest, who took an early lead but FCSB levelled through Moscu’s first of the season. Another rival clash followed at home to FC Rapid, who scored an early penalty then Fritea got sent off after 24 minutes. But FCSB equalised with their own penalty just before half-time, bossed the game and deservedly nicked it with Faijc’s long-range strike.
The new signings were eventually allowed to be registered for Latunov’s seventh game at the club, which was a trip to Sepsi. But another game of wasted chances saw Latunov’s first defeat in a 2-1 loss. That prompted the manager to amend his tactic to a more possession-based approach, which worked as they raced into a 2-0 lead at Turris Turne Magurele with goals from left-winger Grigol Kvaskhvadze and a Fajic beauty. Rusu added another after the break to seal a 3-0 win with a massive 3.7 xG.
A random two-week break teed up a big home clash with Viitorul. Fritea returned from suspension and injury to smash home a superb volley that was the only goal of a tight game. Another 20-day break, this time for internationals, led into another big home game against Cluj, where one goal was once again enough thanks to Coman’s first for the club.
That convinced Latunov to promote the Frenchman to the starting lineup, and he was rewarded as Coman scored after 14 minutes against Csikszereda. Moscu doubled the lead on his 18th birthday and FCSB eased to a 2-0 win. Another 2-0 win at Farul Constanta, with the same two scorers, opened up a seven-point lead at the top. Moscu had been showing solid progression, which showed has he scored all five goals against Metan Medias, the last of which was courtesy of an outrageous rabona assist by Mal.
That gave the side confidence heading into a top of the table clash with Universitatea Craiova, against whom one goal from Kvaskhvadze was enough for all three points. On the same day, second and third-placed Viitorul and Dinamo drew, which extended FCSB’s lead to seven points at the half-way mark of the season and heading into a winter break.
January transfer window
Several Chinese clubs showed interest in FCSB players in January. This saw FCSB receive a club and Romanian record fee of £7.5 million for Raoul Mal, who was struggling to get into the team, from Beijing and Rusu go to HB China Fortune for £5 million. More frustatingly, Beijing also met the £4.2 million release fee of Fritea, which left a gap in midfield. While Milan made a bid for the in-form Moscu, which Latunov was able to reject.
Latunov plugged that gap with a bit of a gamble on exciting 21-year-old midfielder Talis for £5 million from Ukrainian side Volyn and added experience by loaning in former Man United midfielder Andreas Pereira, now 34.
Back to the league
Strangely, the league resumed before the transfer window opened with a trip to UTA Arad. But FCSB got off to a flyer with Coman curling in a free-kick from 30 yards, then Moscu and Kvaskhvadze both scored before half-time before youngster Alexandru Postaliu scored his first FCSB goal late on to cap a 4-0 win. Viitorul drew at Arges, which stretched the lead to nine points.
Coman scored another free-kick in a 3-0 win over Astra Giurgiu, then two more rival clashes ended with a 0-0 against Dinamo and 1-0 win at Rapid. A sloppy 3-2 win at home to Arges was followed by welcoming Sepsi, the only team to have beaten FCSB this season. Young winger Silviu Pitu won and converted an early penalty, Prokhorov’s first of the season ensured and an own goal by their keeper ensured a 3-1 revenge win to tie a club record 16 games without defeat. Another Viitorul draw stretched the lead to 11 points with nine games remaining. Moscu got the only goal at Academica Clinceni to break FCSB’s record of games without defeat.
That took them into a big top of the table clash at Viitorul but a terrible performance saw a 3-2 defeat despite a Moscu brace. They bounced back in style with consecutive 4-0 thrashings of bottom side Magurele led by a Kvaskhvadze hat-trick then at CFR Cluj, who were way down in 10th, thanks to a Moscu hat-trick. The striker moved on to 20 goals for the season with a brace in a 2-1 win at Petrolul Ploiesti, on the same day Viitorul lost for the first time in 17 games to send FCSB 16 points clear with two games of the regular season remaining.
The season ended with two more wins, including a 1-0 win at Craiova. And that ensured FCSB finished top on 76 points, scoring 60 and conceding just15.
Each team goes into the Playoff phase with 50% of their total points total, which meant FCSB went into the 10-game period on 38 points, nine clear of Viitorul.
It began at home to Metan Medias, who impressively finished third after coming 13th last season. FCSB routed them again though, this time winning 4-0 inspired by a Kvaskhadze brace. They went behind at Petrolul but fired back to win 3-1 thanks to Kvaskhvadze again and a Moscu brace. A run of seven straight wins ended with a 1-0 loss at Craiova on the same day Viitorul lost at home to Petrolul.
And Viitorul were up next with a trip to the Arena Nationala, which turned out to be a wild match. FCSB started brightly, hitting the bar after two minutes before Kvaskhvadze scored the opener, doubled his tally then created a goal for Moscu inside half an hour. Viitrol got a goal back but Kvashvadze wrapped up his hat-trick early in the second half then got injured. His replacement Buser made it five, Viitorul scored again before Moscu doubled his tally, and the visitors somehow scored a third from just six shots. But a 6-3 win, which was a new league record for highest-scoring game, saw FCSB move 12 points clear with six games to go.
Viitorul lost again at Dinamo, who then hosted city rivals FCSB next. FCSB had the best of the game but struggled to put chances away until right-winger Miodrag Gheorghe won a penalty that substitute Pitu smashed home with his first touch. Viitorul only draw at Craiova, which handed the title to FCSB with five games remaining.
FCSB were champions of Romania for the first time in four years!
FCSB celebrated the title win with a 3-0 win at Metan Medias, which included Moscu scoring his 25th goal of the season to break the club record for most goals in a season. They finished the season with a 3-1 win at home to Petrolul, in which Coman returned from injury to score, draws against Viitorul and Craiova and a 2-0 win over Dinamo.
That ensured Latunov won the Romanian title at the first time of asking and wrapped up the sixth of his target of 13 national titles around Eastern Europe. FCSB won the title by a huge 18 points, scoring a total of 85 goals and conceding just 24 in 40 matches. Moscu finished the season as the league’s top scoreer with 26 goals, Coman had the highest average rating of 7.34 and Curtean kept 23 clean sheets.
Moscu led the way with 26 goals and 10 assists, followed by Kvaskhadze with 16 goals and seven assists. Coman scored nine and got two assists in just 23 appearances and Pitu scored seven and got three assists, while Fajic topped the assists chart with 10. Moscu won fans’ player and young player of the season, Talis won signing of the season and Coman won goal of the season.
In other news, Zijad Handzic, Latunov’s star striker at Rijeka, moved to Liverpool for £20 million and scored 12 in 24 league games.
Back on the job hunt
With the Romanian title in the bag, Latunov resigned from FCSB and went in search of his next opportunity. The countries remaining on his list were: Belarus, Bulgaria, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine. From those, the biggest job available was Zilina, who offered an interview, but then Shakhtar Donetsk manager Luis Castro resigned after 11 years in charge.
So Latunov swiftly applied and eventually got offered an interview. Zilina offered a role so Latunov asked for a delay in hope that Shakhtar would come looking for him. And they eventually did, so Latunov signed a deal to move to his eighth club and seventh country on his Soviet Surge.
Join us next time to discover the situation facing Vladimir Latunov at Shakhtar Donetsk in the summer of 2030.