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Euro Stars: Daniel Niculae (Romania)

Euro Stars: Daniel Niculae (Romania)

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Publish on 06/05 at 17:42 - G. BOXALL

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In our latest series focusing on the 2024 European Championships, we’ll focus on a player from each of the 24 countries participating (except for France). These legends have achieved success with their countries and in Ligue 1, and have helped to make the game in France what it is today: exciting, fast-paced and cosmopolitan.

In the latest instalment of EuroStars we'll be focussing on Romania and former Auxerre, AS Monaco, and AS Nancy striker Daniel Niculae. Beginning his life in football at Rapid Bucharest, Niculae would become a domestic champion and reach the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup with his hometown club. He also represented the Romanian national team 39 times, participating in UEFA Euro 2007 and scoring nine goals for his country.

Nicaulae joined Ligue 1 side AJ Auxerre in the summer of 2006 for a price tag of €3.3 million where he would score four goals in the AJA's UEFA Cup run in his first season, but struggled for goals in the league. The following season, the Romanian's form would improve as Niculae would score 11 goals to help the club keep its spot in Ligue 1. After a forgettable 2008-2009 season where he failed to find the net in 32 games, Niculae would have a huge season in 2009-2010.

After initially being touted for a loan move away from the club, manager Jean Fernandez was forced to play the Romanian striker in the absence of Alexandre Licata due to a serious ankle injury. It marked the beginnings of a flourishing partnership at Auxerre between Niculae and Polish target-man Ireneusz Jelen which propelled AJA up to second in the Ligue 1 table and pushed for the UEFA Champions League positions.

More than a goalscorer

"He's a boy I managed for four seasons at AJ Auxerre, where he was the ideal complement to Jelen," said former manager Jean Fernandez. "Daniel is not a goalscorer, but more of a passer. On the other hand, he's going to work hard for the team and give 100%. He's a player with a very good mentality."

After his time at Auxerre, Niculae would make a switch to AS Monaco and a further loan move to AS Nancy only a season later, where he would play in 31 matches and score six goals for the Lorraine club. He would go on to join Russian side Kuban Krasnodar before returning to Rapid Bucharest on multiple occasions before his official retirement. He is now the president of his hometown club.

Despite winning his first international cap for the senior international side of Romania, Niculae didn't become a regular for his nation until the 2005-2006 season. He would go on to participate in Romania's Euro 2008 campaign, starting the first two matches - but failing to help the Tricolorii qualify for the quarter-finals against the Netherlands in the final group game. In total Niculae represented Romania 39 times and scored nine goals for his nation.

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