Stefan Radu: Lazio’s Romanian veteran
Passionate, loyal, consistent, solid. All of these words describe Lazio’s most capped currently active player, Stefan Radu. Radu is an unsung hero and a left-sided defender who rarely has a bad game. Since arriving at Lazio in January of 2008, the Romanian international has since become a first-team regular and has even sporadically worn the armband for the Biancoceleste.
Stefan Daniel Radu was born on the 22nd of October, 1986 in the Romanian capital of Bucharest. At the age of just 13 he was signed to the youth team of the Romanian giants, Dinamo București and was there until he got promoted to the senior team 5 years later. He spent 4 seasons there amassing 61 caps and gained national attention as a great talent by the Romanian media. His performances at center-back for Dinamo helped them win their 18th league title.
ARRIVAL TO LAZIO
Lazio signed the largely coveted defender on loan for €1M in the winter of the following season. Radu made his debut in a 2-1 win over Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia. He did very well in his loan spell and as result, earned a permanent €3.5M move to the capital club. In his first full season with Lazio, manager Delio Rossi had faith in Stefan, playing him in 21 games in all competitions. This faith paid off as Radu helped Lazio win their 5th Coppa Italia and then their 3rd Supercoppa Italiana a few months later.
BACKGROUND, HISTORY, ACCOMPLISHMENTS
In the following 2009-10 season, despite Lazio finishing 12th in the Serie A, Radu was named among the 10 best defenders in Italy by Castrol. His solid performances even piqued the interest of Palermo, Inter, and Bayern Munich, but fortunately for us Laziali he stayed put. Radu’s 4th season with the Biancoceleste saw manager Edy Reja convert him to left-back in a four-at-the-back formation. Unfortunately, his season was interrupted by a meniscus injury. Radu then returned to help Lazio achieve a very impressive 5th place finish. In June of 2011, the Romanian international renewed his contract with Lazio until 2016. In the following season, he appeared in 21 Serie A and 5 Europa League matches, finishing with a very respectable average rating of 7.15 and one MOTM performance (source: whoscored.com).
The next season was also successful for Radu as he had the 4th highest average rating on the team (7.11) and contributed with his 2nd career Serie A goal and his 3rd career MOTM performance.
In the 2014-15 season, Radu was a big part of Lazio’s impressive 3rd place finish and Coppa Italia run, contributing with 2 assists and a goal in the Coppa Italia finals. At the end of the season, he extended his contract once again for another 5 years.
Lazio had a disappointing 2015-16 season, finishing 8th. I believe this is partly due to Radu only making 13 Serie A appearances. Stefan managed 1 assist and another MOTM in these 13 games and had his first red card in 5 years.
Last season, a big reason why Lazio had the success that they had is Radu appeared in 41 games in all competitions; a career high. Out of these 41 games, he had the highest rating out of Lazio’s three defenders more occasions than any other defender. On October 25th, 2017, he surpassed Idilio Cei for 10th most Lazio appearances of all time.
Finally, as we approach the midway point in this rollercoaster season, Stefan Radu continues to rack up appearances for Lazio. He has had an up-and-down season putting in an average match rating of 6.73 but it’s not hard to see why Simone Inzaghi continues to trust the consistent Romanian on the left side of Lazio’s 3-man defense.
- Goals: 7
- Assists: 18
- Own Goals: 0
- Yellow Cards: 82
- Red Cards: 4
- Career tackles/game: 1.7
- Career interceptions/game: 2.6
- Career clearances/game: 4.1
- MOTM: 5
- Average Rating: 7.02
- Serie A appearances: 264 (8th all time)
- UEFA appearances: 41 (10th all time)
- Domestic cup appearances: 25
- Total Lazio appearances: 330 (7th all time)
- Minutes played: 28273
- Trophies: 4 (Coppa Italia x2, Supercoppa Italiana x2)
(Sources: transfermarkt.co.uk, whoscored.com: for Lazio as of December 25th, 2018)
I believe there’s a clear correlation between Lazio’s success and how often Radu plays. For example, in 2015-16 Radu had 13 Serie A caps and Lazio finished a measly 8th, but the season before and after that one he made 24 and 29 appearances respectively and Lazio did much better, placing 3rd the year before and 5th the year later. Furthermore, his old club Dinamo Bucuresti have not won a league title since leaving the club more than 10 years ago. This is no coincidence.
Radu is a quiet difference maker. He puts in his all for the biancoceleste and is as dependable as they get. Stefan Radu is not flashy by any means, but he does his job and he does it well. He is the club’s most capped non-Italian and with 330 appearances under his belt (and counting), Lazio’s Mr. Consistent defenceman is sure to become a club legend when he retires.