Revolving doors usher in new changes for CSM

Previous champions have thrived on consistency, keeping their core intact and not changing coaches unless the situation required such action. However, CSM Bucuresti are eyeing the big-time prize by ignoring traditions, unwritten rules or any other form of ‘making a champion 101’.

Another coaching change has passed through CSM Bucuresti’s revolving doors and 10 new players have been brought in ahead of the start of the DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League. The big star they brought in, Nora Mørk, suffered another devastating injury in just her first game as a player for the Romanian powerhouse.

Three questions before the new season:

Will the new experiment pay off?

After winning the competition in 2015/16 in their maiden Champions League season, CSM Bucuresti established themselves as a powerhouse that would likely compete for the trophy for many seasons to come. Fast forward to 2019 and it is likely that the Romanian side has taken a step back. There are some key ingredients for the recipe of making a contender and CSM are missing one of the staples: consistency. It is also the case for the 2019/20 season, as a new coach has been ushered in, 10 new players have been signed and the risks taken by the team’s management are arguably bigger than the potential pay-off.

CSM have brought back experienced duo Linnea Torstensson and Carmen Martin, who helped lead the team to the trophy in 2016, but there is now also a hint of the Romanian national team, with Denisa Dedu, Gabriela Perianu and Laura Moisa on the roster. “We have a great team, but we are aware of the fact that we have many new players, new coaching staff and we need time to build a strong team. It is a new start for us, but we are giving our best to improve as a team as soon as possible,” said team captain Cristina Neagu. Will the new experiment pay off? Grab your popcorn, make yourselves comfortable and just watch the show.

Can Ryde bring something extra to the table?

A great motivator and a proven winner with Viborg HK, 59-year-old Swedish coach Tomas Ryde is the latest name to enter CSM’s traditional coaching carousel. Ryde knows some of the players well – especially Cristina Neagu, whom he coached in the Romanian national team that won a bronze medal at the Women’s IHF World Championship 2015.

Yet Ryde has not coached on a day-to-day basis at such intensity in the past 11 years and this will be a big question mark. Ryde knows his handball, won the competition with a stellar Viborg team in 2005/06, and he can micromanage the normal tension brewing in such a high intensity team. But is he still a top coach?

Will CSM’s injury curse be lifted?

Poor team chemistry, a slew of injuries and a touch of bad luck were the main talking points for CSM Bucuresti last season. The Romanian side started this time with a bang, winning 29:23 against SCM Ramnicu Valcea in the Romanian Super Cup, but they lost against a modest Zalau side in the domestic league. But the main question prior to this season was “how are Cristina Neagu and Nora Mørk going to co-exist in an explosive back court?” Unfortunately, we will have to wait for an answer to that question. Mørk underwent surgery for the ninth time in her career, due to a torn ligament in her knee, and CSM seemingly cannot shake off the injury curse that has bedevilled the Romanian side for so long. The 28-year-old Norwegian right back will be out for the season – and one can only hope that CSM do not again face an injury crisis requiring them to improvise in the line player and wing positions.

Under the spotlight: Cristina Neagu

Two seasons ago, Neagu returned to Romania aiming to achieve the ultimate goal: win Europe’s premier competition with a Romanian team. An under-par season came first and then disaster struck last year, as Neagu tore her ACL and had a nine-month lay-off. Neagu definitely needed a break, her rehab went worse than expected, but the new team captain will be a staple for the new-look CSM side. “It is a long and hard competition, but I believe in our team and I am confident that we can reach our goals,” said the 31-year old stalwart.

Fun fact

While CSM may be the team that represents the biggest Romanian city, the Romanian runners-up are training in one arena and playing in three different arenas during the season, irrespective of the competition.

What the numbers say

10 is a magic number, and it is also the number of coaching changes that CSM have undergone in the past five years. Tomas Ryde is the third Swede to lead the Romanian side after Per Johansson and Magnus Johansson. In this timespan, there were also four Danes – Mette Klit, Kim Rasmussen, Jakob Vestergaard and Helle Thomsen – one Romanian coach, Aurelian Rosca, and Serbian Dragan Djukic.

CSM Bucuresti (ROU)

Qualification for DELO WOMEN’S EHF Champions League 2019/20: Romanian runners-up

Newcomers: Nora Mørk (Györi Audi ETO KC), Crina Pintea (Györi Audi ETO KC), Gabriela Perianu (Siófok KC Hungary), Denisa Dedu (Siófok KC Hungary), Itana Grbic (ZRK Buducnost), Laura Moisa (ASC Corona Brașov), Andrea Klikovac (Kisvardai KC), Carmen Martin (OGC Nice Cote D’Azur), Linnea Torstensson (OGC Nice Cote D’Azur), Denisa Vâlcan (CSS Tulcea)

Left the club: Amanda Kurtovic (Györi Audi ETO KC), Majda Mehmedovic (ZRK Buducnost), Jovanka Radicevic (ZRK Buducnost), Paula Ungureanu (CS Rapid Bucuresti), Oana Manea (retired), Nathalie Hagman (Odense Håndbold), Sabina Jacobsen (CSKA Moscow), Aneta Udriștioiu (HC Dunarea Braila), Barbara Lazovic (ZRK Buducnost), Bianca Bazaliu (ASC Corona Brasov, on loan)

Coach: Tomas Ryde (since July 2019)

Team captain: Cristina Neagu

Women’s EHF Champions League record:

Participations (including 2019/20 season): 5
Winners (1): 2015/16
Semi-finals (2): 2016/17, 2017/18
Quarter-finals (1): 2018/19

Other EC records:

EHF Cup:
Last 16 (1): 2011/12

Romanian league:
4 titles (2015-18)

Romanian cup:
4 titles (2016-19)

TEXT: Adrian Costeiu / jw, ew