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Ianis Stoica: Is Arsenal-linked wonderkid truly 'the Romanian Mbappe'?

15:00 GMT+3 14/12/2021
Ianis Stoica NXGN GFX
The 19-year-old forward is averaging a goal or an assist every 72 minutes for FCSB this season, more than four years on from his professional debut

“I currently have €7.5 million (£6.4m/$8.5m) for Ianis Stoica,” claimed controversial FCSB owner Gigi Becali in late November when discussing bids for the club’s highly-coveted teenage forward.

“But I want €10m, plus 20 per cent (from a future transfer),” he concluded, before revealing that the offer for Stoica had, in fact, been made by Arsenal.

Soon video compilations and online articles were proclaiming Stoica as being ‘the Romanian Mbappe’, with Gunners fans working themselves into a frenzy over their apparent interest in a potential new young star.

It is important at such a time, however, to take a step back.

The reason behind Stoica’s nickname is largely down to him stating in a previous interview that he admires Mbappe as a player, and hopes to replicate some of what the France international can produce within his own game.

In terms of Arsenal’s apparent interest, there has been nothing out of the Emirates Stadium that would suggest they are keen on the 19-year-old, and given Becali’s somewhat bombastic history, there is a chance that he is just looking to drive up the price for any actual interested parties.

With all that said, it is not like Stoica has not deserved to have more and more fans from outside Romania take notice of him so far this season.

In his first full season as part of the FCSB senior squad, he has six goals to his name in all competitions, and is averaging a goal or an assist every 72 minutes that he is on the pitch.

Becali has previously spoken of Stoica as being a “phenomenal prospect”, and the signs are positive that he could yet make good on the promise he showed on his headline-grabbing first-team debut some four years ago.

Aged just 14 years and 322 days, Stoica both played and scored in the Romanian Cup against Sanatatea Cluj, becoming the youngest player in FCSB history in the process.

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It is likely, though, that such a debut was prearranged by Becali when he lured Stoica to his club from Freiburg, where he had a rather short spell in 2016.

According to the player himself, he even impressed Bayern Munich scouts while in Germany, who in turn offered him a trial.

"I chose Steaua ahead of Bayern, because I have a better chance here," he said in 2018.

When asked about the reasons in retrospect, the player's father, Pompiliu Stoica, claimed: "I didn’t like the conditions at Freiburg, so we went back to Bucharest.". Given the fact that Freiburg have magnificent facilities and invest hugely in youth coaching, that is a fairly odd statement, to put it mildly. 

Stoica Sr. was a decent player himself. Having started his career as a striker, he eventually settled as a left-back, winning two league titles in Romania with Steaua, while representing the national team on eight occasions.

He also spent time playing in Russia and Cyprus, but his ties to Steaua and Becali are strong, and that is likely to have been the major motivation behind his son’s move back to his homeland.

As for Ianis' hopes of progressing much faster in Romania than in Germany, they were not really realistic. After his debut, he made three further substitute appearances in the cup, only to then take in four separate loan spells before forcing himself back into contention this season.

He first joined Dunarea Calarasi at the beginning of 2019, for whom he made his top-flight debut, though that proved to be only one of only two appearances for the club. 

Stoica was then sent to second-division side Petrolul 52, but his father was not satisfied with him making just eight appearances, and brought him back to the capital midway through the 2019-20 season.

His third spell, at another second-tier side, Metaloglobus, was also cut short, this time because of the Covid-19 restrictions at the beginning of 2020. 

Finally, last season, Stoica joined minnows Slatina, who were reportedly chosen due to their ties to Romania Under-19s coach Dan Oprescu. Stoica scored seven goals there, including four in six games during the end-of-season play-off rounds, though that was not enough to save Slatina from relegation to the third division. 

His form, though, did allow him the chance to prove himself in the senior FCSB squad, and it is a chance he has grasped with both hands, despite only having started four matches thus far.

As well as his goals at club level, he also netted on his Romania U21s debut against Georgia in September, with his best attributes ensuring he catches the eye more often than not when on the field.

Stoica is quick, loves to dribble and improvise, and feels comfortable on both flanks. Mostly used on the right, he would arguably be more dangerous on the left, cutting inside to use his stronger right foot and show off how capable he is when shooting from distance.

FCSB coach Toni Petrea remarked: "Ianis is a valuable player, but he has a lot of work to do. First he needs to play here and improve gradually, and then we would be able to talk about taking the next step to a bigger club."

Whether that bigger club proves to be Arsenal remains to be seen, but while talk of Stoica joining one of Europe’s elite or replicating the heroics of Mbappe might be premature, there is certainly talent there. It must be hoped that the building hype around him, however, does not overshadow the developments he still has to make.

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