Second time the charm for Pascual and Dinamo?
Signing Xavi Pascual as the new coach at the start of the 2021/22 season was a huge coup for C.S. Dinamo Bucuresti, as the Spanish coach was just coming off a flawless season in the EHF Champions League Men with Barça, winning the title after 20 consecutive wins.
Dinamo did not make it into the play-offs, but it was always a challenge to deliver from the first season in charge. Now, with plenty of new experienced players, Pascual and the Romanian champions are ready to make waves in the European premium competition.
- this will be the second season for Spanish coach Xavi Pascual at Dinamo, as he ushered in a new era for the Romanian champions
- Dinamo will have seven former EHF Champions League winners in their squad, including line players Cédric Sorhaindo and Mamdouh Shebib, left back Ali Zein (who arrived this summer from Barça), former Barça players Eduardo Gurbindo and Alex Pascual, and former Vardar players Khalifa Ghedbane and Christian Dissinger
- since the current format of the competition was introduced, Dinamo have never progressed to the knockout phase, yet they are coming in with huge ambitions
- the Romanian side lost their last season’s top scorer, left back Raul Nantes Campos, who netted 78 times
Most important question: How will Dinamo look in the second year of their new sporting project?
The EHF Champions League is not an easy competition to begin with, therefore teams cannot seal success overnight, but rather going the hard way, with meticulous planning, especially on the long-term.
This is where the Romanian mentality could have collided with Xavi Pascual’s thoughts, as the Spanish coach took over Dinamo Bucuresti last summer. However, Dinamo fully embraced the process and the team is starting to look better and better, with more experienced players coming to the fore in precisely the weak spots of the side.
Sure, Pascual will not have superstars on every position on the court like he did at Barça, but he really pulled some coups on the transfer market this season, ushering in new talent on the back line, with Ali Zein and Stanislav Kasparek signing for Dinamo.
The goalkeeping department was already ensured from last season, wings look better on paper, fitness and stamina will somehow be questioned in a very difficult season, with a lot of seasoned veterans like Eduardo Gurbindo, Cedric Sorhaindo or Valentin Ghionea making up the core of the team.
Dinamo’s lack of depth was their undoing last season, when they missed qualifying to the play-offs by only two points, but a win against Lomza Industria Kielce in their maiden game of the season was just a proof of how good the Romanian team might be.
Facing three of the four teams that qualified for the EHF FINAL4, Dinamo won against two of them, Kielce and Telekom Veszprém HC, therefore it will be interesting to see how the Romanian champions will look in year two of Pascual leading the team.
Under the spotlight: Ali Zein
Zein became only the second Egyptian player to secure the EHF Champions League Men trophy, after his teammate Mohamed Mamdouh Shebib, who had previously won it with Montpellier in 2018. Zein needed a fresh challenge, despite being one of the most beloved players in Barça’s locker room.
His lack of playing time in attack was one of the main reasons Zein searched for a new challenge, which saw him in demand on the transfer market. The prospect of working with Pascual was too good to turn down for the Egyptian left back, as Zein, who scored 12 goals in the previous season, embarks on a new challenge and for his second-ever season in the European premium competition.
How they rate themselves
Dinamo see themselves as one of the best 12 teams in the competition. Last season, the Romanian champions failed to progress to the play-offs, finishing on the seventh place in the group, just two points behind SG Flensburg-Handewitt.
However, Dinamo have one year under their belts with Xavi Pascual as the coach, they ushered in new players, with plenty of experience, therefore expectations have just grown higher. Anything but finishing on the top six places in the group will be considered a failure.
“If we reach the play-offs, then anything is possible. We want to continue growing and become one of the best teams in Europe on the long term,” says the team’s sporting director, David Barrufet.
Team captain Valentin Ghionea, who will start his 15th EHF Champions League season, agrees: “We are motivated because we can reach the EHF FINAL4, that should be enough in itself to give everything on the court.”
Did you know?
Iranian goalkeeper Saeid Heidarirad, who has signed for Dinamo five years ago, and Croatian left back Ante Kuduz, will secure the Romanian passport in the next months, with Dinamo having 10 different nationalities in the squad now – Romanian, Spanish, Algerian, Belarussian, Egyptian, French, German, Brazilian, Serbian and Czech.
What the numbers say
2,000 – Dinamo are set to become the 30th club in EHF Champions League history to hit the 2,000-goal milestone. Currently on 1,835, Dinamo are expected to need six or seven matches to get to the mark.
Arrivals and departures
Arrivals: Ali Zein (Barça, ESP), Lazar Kukic (SL Benfica, POR), Stanislav Kasparek (HC Meshkov Brest, BLR), Joao Pedro da Silva (Angel Ximenez Puente, ESP), Viachaslau Bokhan (HC Motor Zaporozhye, UKR), Alexandru Bucătaru (CSM București, ROU), Rareș Muntean (CSS Făgăraș, ROU)
Departures: Dan Andrei Lazăr (SCM Politehnica Timișoara, ROU), Raul Nantes Campos (Al Ahly, EGY), Ahmed Khairy (Al Ahly, EGY), Răzvan Gavriloaia (CSU Suceava, ROU), Alireza Mousavi (unknown), Amine Bannour (Mudhar Club, KSA)
EHF Champions League
Participations (including 2022/23 season): 9
Last 16 (1): 2019/20*
Group phase (5): 2005/06, 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19, 2021/22
Qualification (2): 1995/96, 1997/98
* 2019/20 Last 16 cancelled due to Covid-19 pandemic
EHF European League: Group Phase: 2020/21
EHF Cup: Semi-finals: 2003/04; Last 16: 2001/02, 2004/05
Cup Winners’ Cup: Quarter-finals: 2002/03
Challenge Cup: Final: 2000/01; Semi-finals: 2007/08
City Cup: Semi-finals: 1999/2000
Romanian league: 18 titles (1959-62, 1964-66, 1978, 1986, 1995, 1997, 2005, 2016-19, 2021, 2022)
Romanian cup: 7 titles (1979, 1982, 1988, 2017, 2020-22)