Manuel Veth –
The recent financial problems at Tom Tomsk have been well documented. As a result of these financial problems, Romanian playmaker, Eric Bicfalvi, has seen his contract at Tom Tomsk terminated, and has moved on a free transfer to Russian Football Premier League rivals Ural Sverdlovsk Oblast.
While Tom Tomsk have been struggling all season, Eric Bicfalvi has been one of the few players to actually stand out at the club, scoring three goals and one assist. The playmaker was signed by Tom Tomsk this summer and, after several offers from Russian and Chinese clubs, has decided to move 2000 kilometres west to the European/Asian border to join the Yekaterinburg-based club, Ural.
With Ural, Bicfalvi is expected to fight relegation for the rest of the season. Ural, with 14 points, are currently 13th in the Russian Football Premier League, which is a relegation playoff spot. Ural are, therefore, expected to fight for survival for the rest of the season. With Tom Tomsk virtually guaranteed relegation, Ural will fight with the likes of Anzhi Makhachkala, Krylia Sovetov Samara, Orenburg, and Arsenal Tula to determine the remaining relegation spot, as well as the two relegation playoff spots.
Eric Bicfalvi could be a weapon in Ural’s relegation battle
For Ural, picking up a player like Eric Bicfalvi is a major capture in the relegation battle. After all, the Romanian playmaker was voted one of the best midfielders in the Ukrainian Premier League in 2014 when he was playing for Volyn Lutsk.
Scoring an unbelievable 17 goals in 25 games as an attacking midfielder, made the Romanian midfielder a hot commodity. Some even believed that Bicfalvi could become the next Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and he had offers from several big name clubs both in Ukraine, from the likes of Shakhtar Donetsk, and also from several clubs in Western Europe.
Instead of a move to Shakhtar Donetsk, however, Eric Bicfalvi signed for the Chinese Super League club, Liaoning FC, in the summer of 2015. The move earned Volyn Lutsk, who have always been under big financial pressure, €2.5 million.
The time in China, however, was a bit of a disappointment. Eric Bicfalvi was kept off the score-sheet in all 24 Chinese Super League games for Liaoning FC, despite playing many games as a centre forward. Liaoning eventually finished the season in 12th place.
The 2015 Chinese Super League season was, of course, the last season before the big investment wave of the Chinese football. Bicfalvi would no longer be in China to witness the arrival of high profile players from South America, however, as he left the club on February 16, 2016 to join Dinamo Bucharest.
Controversial return to Romania
The move was somewhat controversial, because Bicfalvi, between 2008 and 2012, had spent four year’s with Dinamo’s city rivals Steaua Bucharest. Despite only playing seven games for Dinamo, Eric Bicfalvi made a major impact when he scored the tying goal against Steaua in the eternal Bucharest derby.
But within four months of having returned to Romania, Bicfalvi was once again off to the post-Soviet space. Signing a contract with newly promoted Tom Tomsk was supposed to be his chance to return to the form that made him one of the most exciting players of Ukrainian football two years ago.
At the time Tom Tomsk appeared to be an ambitious club, they were newly promoted from the Football National League after beating Kuban Krasnodar 2-1 on aggregate (0-1 and 2-0) in the promotion/relegation playoffs.
As it is often the case in Russian football, however, Tom Tomsk are a typical club that is too big for the FNL, but a bit too small for the RFPL. This, in turn, means that the club did not quite have the budget to truly compete with the likes of Zenit Saint Petersburg, Spartak Moscow, CSKA Moscow, and Krasnodar in the top division.
Players like Eric Bicfalvi were, therefore, signed even though the club did not have the means or the financial stability to pay the wages for the full season. As a result the club’s financial trouble has meant that many players have gone without pay for months, which in turn has meant that the club has struggled on the playing field.
Can Eric Bicfalvi recover his career at Ural?
It was, therefore, no surprise that Eric Bicfalvi was among the players, who have terminated their contracts during the winter. Now at Ural, Bicfalvi will be the key signing to prevent the drop to the second division.
When speaking to Andrew Flint, who follows Ural Sverdlovsk Oblast closely, before the Futbolgrad Podcast on Monday, one could sense his excitement that the club had brought in a player like the Romanian playmaker. Bicfalvi in the same form that he displayed during the 2014-15 Ukrainian Premier League would be a major force that would contribute to Ural staying in the league.
Ural, in fact, has a strong history of resurrecting the careers of top players who are struggling to find their form. During the 2014-15 season, Fedor Smolov, who is now the best player of the Russian Football Premier League, was a major factor in keeping Ural in the top division. Since then, Smolov has gone on to a major career. Bicfalvi now has the potential to not only be a saviour, but also to resurrect his career which, two years ago seemed to be on the right track.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist, writer for Bundesliga.com, and podcaster for WorldFootballIndex.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.