One of Chelsea’s heroes in the pre-Abramovich era, Dan Petrescu, had a rollercoaster career after turning to management.
Nicknamed ‘Super Dan’ by the Chelsea faithful following his consistent displays at Stamford Bridge, Petrescu had the dream of returning to the club in a managerial role. Dan spent five years at Chelsea in his playing days, leaving the club in 2000 to join Bradford City.
Now 53, the former right-back is a free agent, pondering his coaching next move. He never came close to the job at Chelsea, despite enjoying success in Russia and his native Romania. His former colleagues in Chelsea’s ‘sexy football’ generation from the ’90s – Roberto Di Matteo, Gianfranco Zola, Gustavo Poyet, Dennis Wise, Mark Hughes or Steve Clarke – have all felt the Premier League experience from the dugout as well, with Di Matteo even leading Chelsea to its first Champions League trophy in 2012. Petrescu went to Russia to coach Kuban Krasnodar and Dynamo Moscow to draw Roman Abramovich’s attention. Unfortunately, the billionaire was looking elsewhere.
‘The owner told me he wanted his coffin next to mine when we die’
A four-time champion in Romania, Petrescu was quite a traveler since he started as a coach. He worked in Poland, China, the U.A.E, Qatar, and Russia. In Krasnodar, a city in Southern Russia, Petrescu lived his most memorable episode of them all. A rather awkward conversation with the man who was pumping money into the club, Oleg Mkrtchan, is still with Petrescu. Mkrtchan had a fortune estimated to more than $1 billion after successful investments in the steel industry but was reluctant to pay big money on player transfers.
“I was after a player from the Romanian league. His name is Lacina Traore,” Petrescu revealed during an interview with GSP Live. “The asking price was set by CFR Cluj at $5 million. I spoke to the boss, saying I was desperate to have that player. I kneeled in front of him, explaining why he should sign Traore. The boss said it was impossible, as he only pays as much as $1.5 million for a player. I went home. The following day, he called asking me how much did the player cost. Finally, he signed him.”
Traore only spent a season with Kuban, being signed by Anzhi in 2012 for over $20 million. The striker went on to play for the likes of Everton, AS Monaco, and CSKA Moscow. Owner Mkrtchan was so happy with the profit he made with Traore, that he had a special proposal for Petrescu.
“One day, he asked me and my translator to join him for a helicopter ride,” Petrescu recalls.
“He asked me to sign a 25-year contract because he was so happy with me. He even offered to give me 10% of every transfer, but I turned him down. Had I accepted, then I would have been focused just on sales. And I didn’t want that. I am just a coach and that’s my job. The owner was so impressed. He said: ‘When we die, I want our coffins one next to the other.’ After a few days, I penned a new contract. The following week, I won a derby. And I got sacked,” Petrescu remembers with a big smile on his face.
Dan was left in shock, as Kuban’s owner refused to ever talk to him again. “I was just told that the decision was made and will not be changed. My agent and I were both left with our mouths open. We just couldn’t believe what was happening,”
Petrescu: ‘I’m waiting for the right offer’
Super Dan loves Chelsea so much that he named one of his daughters after the club. “My older girls both live in London, they are both Chelsea supporters. Not fanatical, but they love Chelsea,” Petrescu says with pride in his voice.
“It was my dream to work at Stamford Bridge as a coach, but it didn’t happen. Honestly, it’s very difficult to ever see it happening,” Petrescu predicts.
“I had an offer from Crystal Palace when they were bottom of the table, but I was afraid to go because of relegation,” he confessed. The former defender was also a target for Huddersfield when the Yorkshire club found itself in a similar situation.
Petrescu’s name was mentioned for the vacancy at Celtic in the last few months. “I’m free and I’m waiting for the right opportunity,” he says. “I last coached in Turkey, at Kayserispor. It wasn’t a great match for me. I didn’t know the league, the players, so there were problems. The league is the toughest I’ve ever worked in. I left after just a few months. But I put the team in a safe position, so I’m happy with that.”