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Interview with former BVB player Marcel Raducanu

A conversation with Borussia Dortmund’s former Romanian midfield maestro

football, Bundesliga, 1983/1984, Grotenburg Stadium, FC Bayer 05 Uerdingen versus Borussia Dortmund 2:1, scene of the match, Marcel Raducanu (BVB) in ball possession, left Ludger van de Loo (Bayer) Photo by Werner OTTO/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Marcel Raducanu with Borussia Dortmund in Munich in 1988.

Marcel Raducanu played for Borussia Dortmund from 1982-88, completing 167 Bundesliga and 5 UEFA Cup matches for the club. Raducanu is remembered as one of the great midfield talents to have played for BVB. Amongst his 31 goals a brace, including an amazing solo run, in the 4-4 draw against Bayern München in season 82/83, a stunning overhead kick in BVB’s win over VFL Bochum in the DFB Pokal quarterfinal in 82/83, and the vital lead in Borussia’s 1985/86 relegation play-off against Fortuna Köln, are especially remembered by BVB fans.

Raducanu had an extensive European career playing in the European Cup, Cup Winners Cup and UEFA Cup. With his first club Steaua Bucharest, he won the double of cup and championship in 1976, and a further championship in 1978 and Romanian cup in 1979, as well as the 1980 Balkan cup with the national team.

The Midfielder, known to his fellow-players as ‘Marcello’, also played a vital role in the promotion secured to the top flight, the Nationalliga A, now the Superliga, with 10 times Swiss champions FC Zürich where he played until his retirement at 36.

Raducanu was called up at all levels from U16 to senior level, scoring three goals, and gaining 21 caps and representing his country Romania at the Olympic Games in Moscow 1980.

Marcel secured the UEFA B trainers licence in 1993 and has run a football academy, Fussballschule Raducanu, where his pupils included Mario and his brother Felix Götze in Dortmund, where he has lived for the last 30 years since retiring from football in 1991.

It’s Sunday morning in the Hombruch district of Dortmund, Marcel sits at the dining table, his wife Anna in the lounge with Luna the family black Labrador, the sun is shining in a cloudless blue sky, the day after the 18/19 derby against Dortmund’s fierce rivals Schalke 04 which has been lost 2-4, which I watched with Marcel on the Tribune Südost in the Westfalenstadion; it was Marcel’s first time on the Südtribüne.

Ben McFadyean (BM) It was a really impressive experience, the whole day yesterday at Westfalenstadion, in spite of the result, wasn’t it?

Marcel Raducanu (MR) Yes, it was something very special to experience the Südtribüne (Dortmund’s famous yellow wall) as a spectator, not a player, the atmosphere at close range is tremendous, that was something I would like to experience again, it was my first game in the stadium in the current season (18/19). A pity how the game turned out, as a ‘Borusse’ (the nickname for BVB supporters and former players) you never like to see a result like that, especially against Schalke.

BM Yes, the result was a great surprise and the loss leaves an empty feeling, BVB will beat Schalke in Gelsenkirchen and at home next season.

I started watching BVB in season 1982/83 the season after you joined and it was tremendous to have the chance to watch the Derby with you on the Südtribüne.

I had a season ticket for from 1985 to 1990, in the 80s you were, in most BVB fans minds, the ‘king of the BVB midfield’. I could almost say an absolute ‘badass’ playmaker, I would compare you in terms of technique and ball control in the current team with Mario Götze at his prime.

At a time when Borussia had to fight extremely hard for every victory and BVB’s highest table finish was 4th in the 1986/87 season under Reinhard Saftig our club were battling relegation in 4 of your 6 seasons with BVB, this was a very different Dortmund side than what we see now, but BVB had even then a great group of players, do you think the comparison with Mario holds up?

MR We had a good side, there were many good players like our goalkeeper Eike Immel, the Germany international who later left on a big transfer to VFB Stuttgart or another international striker Frank Mill and who could forget Manfred ‘Manni’ Burgsmüller who to this day is still the leading all-time league goal-scorer for BVB with 129 goals? I had my role to play in midfield and it’s great to get positive feedback and share the memories.

For sure BVB was different then but somehow for us as players, and no doubt for you as fans, the openness of the club made the relationship even more intense and close, we fought very hard, it was a special time in my career, it is no coincidence that I came back to live in Dortmund after retirement, it was then and still is a true football city, where better to be for me?

‘Where better to be, Dortmund is a true football city’

BM You scored 31 goals for BVB many of them in the Westfalenstadion in front of the Südtribüne, Dortmund now have the highest average capacity crowd worldwide with 80,000 spectators per match, even ahead of Real Madrid or Manchester United, as a fan, even if you travel from as far I do from London to watch the games, it’s worth every moment in the ‘Yellow Wall’, so much passion, really crazy, a feeling we sometimes miss in Premier League grounds. You have played at a number of top clubs 1986 European Cup (now Champions League) winners Steaua Bucharest, FC Zürich and Dortmund of course, is the atmosphere for the players as intense as it is for the fans at Westfalenstadion?

MR The atmosphere in Westfalenstadion is unique. They are world-class fans here for sure. Especially the warm-up before the game, that was something special. The terraces would be full up an hour before kick-off and the fans would be already cheering you on. You didn’t need any motivation from the coach after half an hour warming up in front of the Südtribüne. I was always super-motivated to play here. When I get friends visiting, I send them to watch games at the Westfalenstadion, especially now the capacity has increased to 80,000 and the corners of the stadium have been closed the atmosphere is overwhelming, unreal.

BM You mention the warm-up, I remember this well back in the day, I was only 13 when I started going to BVB, I would stand at the fence behind the goal at the foot of the Südtribüne with my friend Toto Höltke, who like me played at a local club TuS Wandhofen, and other youngsters and watch as “Onkel Otto”, the old man who used to beat the big bass drum cheer the fans on, it made a lasting impression on me to this day, the closeness of the ground and the outstanding atmosphere. Let me ask you, as far as the authentic experience is concerned, you had a real Dortmund “Bierdusche” (a shower of beer thrown by a fan celebrating a goal) when we took the lead in the 14th minute with a Mario goal, so you now you got the real authentic fan experience right?

MR Yes, I got a bit wet but it would have been a lot more if BVB had managed to draw the match. The experience on the terraces was great, even with the ‘Bierdusche’, and despite the result, that was the first but definetly not the last time for me in the fan block.

BM Looking at the match in hand, the derby. How did you see the match as a player? BVB has fire going forward but still shows weaknesses in defence; Akanji at left-back is still an issue from what I can see, he is inconsistent and prone to mistakes and in particular, there are concentration lapses which result in letting in goals from standards like free-kicks and corners. The team has scored over 40 goals in the current season (18-19) but also conceded way too many, against Hoffenheim, for example, a 3-0 lead turned into a 3-3 draw. You are a UEFA B qualified coach, what do you see as the apparent weakness?

Raducanu scored a brace against Bayern Munchen at the Westfalenstadion which in 1982/83 had a 54,000 capacity and open corners.

MR It’s not the fighting spirit, this team is highly motivated, but it is a very young team. The current squad have an average age of 23, I think some players simply lack experience and it starts to show over the course of a season, especially with defenders like Zagadou and Akanji they are both inexperienced at this level. BVB have played a great season and there are outstanding talents like Sancho, a player who can decide a game on his own, but as I said, there is a lack of experience.

You are right about set pieces, I see big room for improvement there and frustratingly this has been apparent since at least season 16-17. I think Peter Stöger worked some of the defensive issues out last season but then the team played, basically, boring but effective football. There are grounds for optimism though Leo Balerdi the new defender from Boca Juniors is a good prospect.

If you look at it in contrast Bayern Munich simply has more depth in the squad, if Luca Hernandez or Joshua Kimmich drop out there is Jerome Boateng or Benjamin Pavard or Nicola Süle. They have great depth in the squad and the defenders are more experienced. You need that if you want to be champions. Dortmund doesn’t yet have it, but they are getting there.

‘Westfalenstadion always had a unique atmosphere’

BM Interesting insights into Bayern also. Talking about your career, as a highly creative midfielder, your impact could be incredible especially in the Dortmund team of the time which had few creative options. I also remember you being on the end of some tough tackling, what do you think of VAR? Could you with your creative style of play have benefitted from it as a player?

MR My impression is that especially in times of sports betting today it is almost inevitable because you can bet on everything in the game, but I am no friend of VAR because it interrupts the flow of the game. The game today is simply faster and harder but at the same time not necessarily more beautiful. On balance I am for VAR because it makes many of the decisions more balanced and less controversial, but when it comes to the flow of play, I agree with you.

BM I am not a fan of VAR myself for the reasons you outline, it interrupts the flow too much. A standard question I always like to ask; who were the worst players to play against? David Beckham mentioned former BVB defender Jörg Heinrich, who I interviewed in 2017, as his ‘worst ever opponent’ – quite a compliment. Who were yours?

The derby - A highlight for any Borussia Dortmund player, here a memorable away win in Gelsenkirchen in season 1985/86.
imago sportfotodienst

MR There were a few notorious guys: Dietmar Klinge from (then Bayer now third tier club KFC) Uerdingen, then Lothar Wölk from VFL Bochum they were ‘Klopper’ (German: Tough nuts) But there were fewer injuries in the past, especially not as severe injuries as nowadays, for example, head injuries resulting in players having to play with a mask or head protection, that was unheard of. It was rougher but because the game was played at less pace, also less dangerous. In today’s game, I certainly would be watching out for ‘Rottweilers’ like Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid).

BM You mentioned Manfred, for me, not many players have had as much influence on the game in Dortmund in the era of the early to mid-1980s as you and Michael Zorc and perhaps also Germany international Keeper Eike Immel and Teddy de Beer. Can you share some memories with me about the players in those times?

MR A fun anecdote about our keeper at the time Teddy de Beer; Teddy and I had a lot of fun when he joined in 1986, style was very important to me, it was Manni who got me started with the clothes, we shared the same tailor in Dortmund– but Teddy’s reactions when I would come into the locker room on a Monday morning were outstanding, he would be visibly irritated much to the amusement of the other lads, he couldn’t understand how anyone could spend so much of their money on clothes. Teddy is still the goal-keeping coach at BVB and when I see him we laugh a lot about it.

Also Michael Zorc also was right from the outset an outstanding footballer with an amazing level of dedication and focus. I could see from when he joined at 19, from local club TuS Eving-Lindenhorst, in my second season in 1982/83, ‘Susi’, as Michael was known on account of his long hair, was going to make the grade.

“As a new player at Borussia, Burgsmüller made a big impression on me”

Erdal Keser (currently sporting director of Turkish Superlig team Galatasary and former Turkey International and Borussia Dortmund striker) was, and is, a great friend, we were always ‘on the town’ out for dinners and we spent a number of great holidays together with our wives in the Canary islands. Those were good times, but the problem as a player at BVB for Erdal, was that he played a bit too much for himself and not for the team. When coach Reinhard Saftig joined he promptly sold Erdal to Galatasaray. Erdal scored 18 cracking goals for Dortmund in the two years he was at the club, he might as well have stayed on at Dortmund as far I am concerned.

BM Another player you mentioned earlier, one of my favourites, do you have special memories of top BVB striker Manni Burgsmüller that you can share with us? How was he as a colleague? Manni scored 135 league goals for BVB, a record which stands to this day. What made Manni so special as a team-mate? You played with him for a season at BVB, his last, 1982/83, which happened to be my first season as a fan what memories do you have of Manni?

MR When I came to the first training session in September 1981, after the training session we always a match first team against the second team. I played on the team with Manni and other stalwarts like Lothar Huber and Rolf Rüssman, they were BVB greats and a great opportunity for me as the newcomer but thanks to Manni, I was accepted right from the start. Manni was a true leader of the team, he was very popular. For me, as a young player who had recently arrived in Germany, he was a person who made a big impression on me.

Manni invited me to dinner a few times, we used to go to an Italian restaurant called Mamma Fortuna in the North of Dortmund, it was a great place, tables out in front on the pavement, all the players used to hang out there, there was no menu just what the owner’s wife had cooked on the day, my start at BVB was just right and I owe most of that to Manni, when Manni left for 1 FC Nürnberg, BVB lost their best forward, I wasn’t the only one who was sad to see him go.

BM Let me touch on another highlight of your career Marcel, the 85/86 season was associated with a great challenge for BVB and a sporting highlight in your career with the club but in a different way. Finishing the season in 16th place (the relegation play-off spot in the Bundesliga where the 16th plays against the 3rd team in the second tier the 2 Liga in a two-legged play-off to decide who will play in the Bundesliga), BVB just managed to prevent relegation in the play-offs against the ambitious Fortuna Köln.

You scored the 2-1 in the return leg, unusually for you with a header, I remember that second game in Dortmund, everything seemed so bleak and BVB went into the last minutes and then the forward , who later was signed by Bayern in a big money transfer, scored the 3-1 in the 90th minute which meant Borussia had to play the third relegation match in Düsseldorf against Fortuna, a momentous day, what memories do you have?

MR I didn’t score many header goals so you can imagine the joy. We had to score three or BVB would be relegated. At halftime you could have heard a pin drop, nobody believed we could do it in the locker room, the players’ heads were down and coach Saftig said in his calm straightforward way ‘We still have 45 minutes left, just go out and get a quick 1-1 and then give it all you’ve got, it’s not over yet!’ And that’s exactly how it turned out, ‘Susi’ (Zorc) converted the penalty early in the second half, a penalty, I was supposed to take that penalty by the way but I had missed my last one in the game against 1 FC Köln and Michael snatched the ball and said, ‘not today, I’ll do it!’ Then the Wegmann goal in the dying seconds, seriously I left the pitch wearing only my shorts, the pitch invasion and the crowd, it was unbelievable.

BM Also as a fan, the atmosphere was incredible, I’ll never forget that in a lifetime. Especially when it became clear to us fans that the 3-1 was enough to reach a third play-off match. The fear of relegation for a second time after 1972 when it had taken 3 seasons to get back again to the Bundesliga was gigantic. I also remember the pitch invasion, amazing. But you walked off the pitch with nothing but your shorts on?

MR Yeah, the fans stormed the pitch. There were thousands of fans all around us within minutes of the final whistle blowing, I don’t know how the fans got on to the pitch? They ripped everything off you: my Jersey, my shoes, even my socks... The players were trying to get off the pitch as fast as possible, but for the sheer volume of people around you, you just couldn’t get away. Dr Rauball (BVB then and now Chairman) was even lifted on to the shoulders of the fans, honestly with the club’s finances being as precarious as they were then, I don’t know if Borussia would have come back from the 2 Liga (second tier) that quickly – I was more ecstatic that day than winning the first championship with Steaua Bucharest.

“I was more ecstatic winning the relegation match with BVB in 1986 than my first championship with Steaua”

BM And BVB went on to win the deciding match 8-0 and stay in the Bundesliga where they have remained since. Marcel, you are a UEFA B qualified coach and run your own academy, I compared you to Mario Götze, Mario was one of your students at your academy Fussballschule Raducanu, an outstanding talent, there is a lot more to his him than that goal in the World Cup final in 2014 but for sure he will go down in history for the goal that won the World cup for Germany, you have known Mario since he was a boy, what is so special for you about Mario and his style of play?

MR Mario came to my academy with his brothers Fabian and Felix when he was 11. They were talented and great lads. Especially with Mario, you could even at 11 see the talent. Mario had something, a commitment and work ethic that were going to take him places. When I meet Mario today, it is something special having that bond from his early playing time. I follow his career with great interest and a little bit of pride too, although he plays in Dortmund, I don’t see him as often as you might imagine.

Match day programme with Germany international Norbert Eder at ten time Swiss Champions FC Zürich in 1988.

BM Let’s talk about the current BVB team. Sancho for me is the Raducanu of the current team, a player with a unique genius and ability, especially as an Englishman, I am really enthralled to see Jadon at BVB, Jadon has achieved so much in just one year and at 19, when many players would normally be in BVB’s academy, in an interview you once compared Sancho in terms of efficiency to Messi and you said you would have wanted to have played alongside Sancho right?

MR This is a special team BVB are putting together, Sancho is an exceptional talent you will see he is going places, he doesn’t do the things on the ball than I did, he’s a different kind of player but what he does is outstanding, the creativity and the drive, Jadon is one of the greatest talents to ever have worn the yellow and black jersey but also the Axel Witsel signing was a stroke of luck, Borussia would not be where they are now without him, Favre gets a lot of criticism from the press but I think he is building something, this Borussia generation has so much potential, they haven’t nearly reached the top of their potential.

BM Tell me about your time in Switzerland with, you transferred to the Swiss league in 1988 and 1990 and there celebrated the return to the top tier with Zurich a great breakthrough in a difficult time for one of the top Swiss football clubs. How was the time in Switzerland?

MR Yes and no, Switzerland is an amazing country and I had some memorable times there but I have mixed feelings about my time with FCZ, because that era is also connected with the end of my career due to injury, with today’s medicine my injury could have been treated but not then. In Switzerland I could have played another couple of years, retirement at 36 was entirely avoidable. The promotion, however, was something we really celebrated, and I look back with fond memories. One thing I am grateful for is even today I still get fan mail from Switzerland and that 30 years later.

‘For Romanian football the 1990s was a golden age’

BM Marcel, do you have any regrets from your career? Timing seems to have been a theme? You left for FC Zurich in 1988 and missed out on BVB’s 1989 DFB Pokal triumph. You won the double with Steaua Bucharest in 1976 and a championship in 1978 and further cup in 1979 and left for BVB in 1982 only to watch many of your teammates including Majeam, Stoica, Balint and the forward Angel Iordanescu, who later became Steaua’s coach and coached the Greece national team triumph against a Barcelona team that included Bernd Schuster and a player familiar to fans of the British game Scotland’s Steve Archibald, how was that it seeing those successes but not being part of them for you, any regrets?

MR 1986 and 1989 were celebrations for me although I didn’t attend either of the finals, I watched them, even now, I never miss a Steaua or BVB match when they are shown live. Steaua achieved something quite magical in 1986 which has never been achieved again and probably never will be. You know being the army club, Steaua had the pick of the best players in the Romanian league, Steaua had a huge following, former president Nicolae Ceausescu was a great fan, more than a fan I would say it helped a little, (laughs).

The 1980s, in general, were a real highlight for Romanian sport. Steaua won 5 titles under coach Emerich Jenai who had himself been a good defensive midfielder for Steaua in the 1960s, Jenai was a stern coach but also a tremendous inspiration. Steaua had a terrific generation of Steaua players like Georgi Hagi who was signed by Barcelona or Dan Petrescu who played in the Premier League for Chelsea.

In action in memorable 2 -1 win over England in World cup qualifier in 1981.

The 1990s, however, was Romania’s real ‘golden era’, Romania reached the world cup finals in 90,94 and 98, if I regret anything it’s never having played at the World cup that would have been a real highlight, I played at the Moscow 1980 Olympics but Romania missed out on the European championships in Italy to Spain.

I have played for three amazing clubs with Steaua, Borussia Dortmund and FC Zurich and I have played all the big European tournaments and against some of the best players of the era, Maradona, Lineker, Matthaus, I even played a friendly alongside Pele, I have no regrets, my football career feels like a dream looking back, I was blessed with my skills.

BM Thank you, Marcel, this fan and journalist’s football days would certainly have been less unique without the memories of the balls skills of one Marcel Raducanu.

Copyright Ben McFadyean 2020