‘Bodyguard of Genoa’ – ‘imperious’ Dragusin to choose Spurs over Bayern11 January 2024
It looks like Tottenham have won the race to sign Romania centre-back Radu Dragusin.
With a number of top clubs from around Europe interested in the Genoa defender - including Bayern Munich - Spurs will hope their latest recruit from Serie A for a fee of around 25m euros will boost their top-four prospects.
But who is the 21-year-old who was playing Serie B football just a few months ago, and why has he opted for Tottenham over some of Europe's biggest clubs?Radu Dragusin has earned a reputation as one of Europe's best young defenders
The son of Svetlana and Dan Dragușin, former Romania internationals in basketball and volleyball, there are two things you will hear mentioned whenever someone is asked about Dragusin in Italy.
One, the man is tall, around 6ft 3ins, with a strong physique. Such physical attributes have proven to be a hot commodity in Italy, especially in the search for the next great defender.
The second and arguably more important quality, is the player's character. A hard worker with ambitions to continue progressing, these are the qualities that have always enthralled Fabio Paratici, the former Juventus sporting director, who helped bring him to Italy in 2018.
In 2020, the Old Lady were suffering financially, the pandemic had ruined their plans for steady growth and the opportunity to maximise the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo. Andrea Pirlo was brought in as coach, initially to take on the club's under-23 side but then promoted to the big job only nine days later. The aim was to develop a younger Juve, to give opportunities to the new generation, allowing them to train and play with the superstars
Dragusin was one of a handful of players who caught Pirlo's eye from the youth ranks, statuesque and determined. Pirlo felt that by training with better players, the defender would develop well. "He is a physically very strong player, very young, who needs to grow a lot on a technical level, but by training with great champions he will have time to do this," remarked Pirlo after Dragusin's debut.
The defender made that debut in Juve's Champions League win against Dynamo Kyiv, coming on as a substitute in the December 2020 group game, a 3-0 win for the Turin club.
Due to Covid restrictions, his family couldn't be there to celebrate in the stands; however, Mircea Lucescu, the highly decorated Romanian, was the opposing coach and witnessed his countryman's debut.
The two chatted at the end of the game, making it a day Dragusin would never forget.Radu Dragusin is no stranger to playing in white
Moving on loan to Sampdoria and then Salernitana, Dragusin finally arrived at Genoa and was able to play regularly.
Dubbed the 'Bodyguard of Genoa' in a headline, the centre-back proved immense in Serie B last season. He featured in every league match, with Genoa boasting the second tightest defence and being duly promoted.
Back in Serie A, the player's development has been clear to see.
Dragusin is imperious in the air, aggressive when marking, quick to clear and strong in set-pieces. He has improved on the ball, is quick and intelligent when positioning himself, and he is no longer as impulsive, with forwards having found it almost impossible to dribble past him.
More importantly, he plays with confidence, is never intimidated by the opponent, and thrives in the big moments. He scored the equaliser that held league leaders Inter Milan to a 1-1 draw two weeks ago.
Accustomed to playing in the centre of a three-man backline, Dragusin has featured in a dynamic counter-attacking Genoa who care little about dominating possession. They are physical, quick to recover possession and quick to strike, and Dragusin behind the infallible Morten Frendrup has been essential to the club's impressive performances this season.
Tactically flexible, Dragusin plays in a four-man defence for Romania and his performances have beguiled the nation. Coach Edi Iordanescu has proved an inspiring coach of the team and Dragusin has spoken of trust and synergy between the two, appreciating how the coach has protected his players.
Iordanescu has been trying to temper expectations of Dragusin, who was named the Romanian player of the year in 2023, reminding them the defender was playing in Serie B only a few months ago.
Now that very player is rejecting European behemoths.
Dragusin chose Tottenham over Bayern Munich, a fact his agent has seemingly yet to fully recover from. "Bayern are one of the biggest clubs in the world... I can't believe we turned down Bayern. Radu had given Spurs his word and chose to respect this," agent Florin Manea told the Romania media.
It's no secret Dragusin follows the Premier League closely. He had hoped to play in England one day and the opportunity has finally arrived.
Ange Postecoglou, Tottenham's ambitious manager, may have had a big part to play with the player's decision to choose Spurs.
Dragusin has been open about the importance of the relationships he has forged with his coaches, including the inspiring Iordanescu. At Genoa, he enjoyed an excellent relationship with coach Alberto Gilardino, a World Cup winner who has shown great trust in him, spending hours nurturing his talent.
As for Pirlo, the coach who gave him his debut in Serie A?
"I will always be grateful to him for believing so much in me," Dragusin told Playsport in Romania. "He gave me the opportunity to try football, football of the greats. He is an incredible person, a former footballer with years at the highest level. We know what Pirlo means for Italy, for the entire planet. A gentleman, he has a very elegant character.
"I've never seen him scream like other technicians do. His calm way of speaking was what charged you positively."
Dragusin is not the finished article and he will make mistakes, and perhaps the unrelenting pressure of Bayern would not have been ideal.
Postecoglou seems like the perfect man to help guide the defender as he takes the next step in his career. Spurs are building something special and by the summer, if all goes well, they may well just add a few more Serie A pieces to the mix.
- Mina Rzouki is a European football journalist and broadcaster who is writing for BBC Sport this season. If you have a question on European football that you'd like to ask her, then fill out the form below and she will answer a selection of them in subsequent columns.
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