This piece comes from Joe Donnohue, writer for Scouted Football. He previously wrote this piece on the Romania side that reached the Euro Under-21 semi-final in June - a team spearheaded by George Puscas.
So, George Puşcaş has signed for the Royals. Reading becomes his seventh club at the age of 23, which ordinarily does not make for good reading. One can be mistaken for thinking he is some sort of Serie B journeyman, but in actual fact he has been one of Internazionale’s forgotten men over the past couple of years.
The traditionally perceived negatives end there though. Throughout his various spells with Bari, Benevento and Palermo in the south, and Novara in the north, Puşcaş has been resilient and unwavering in his quest to play football at a higher level. Now, after scoring a fine number of goals at each of those clubs, he is rewarded with a five-year deal at a Championship side.
There may well be questions over his ability to cut it at a standard typically higher than Italy’s Serie B, but there should not be. Puşcaş showed at this summer’s UEFA Under-21 European Championships that he is more than capable of mixing it with the best of that age group - many of the defenders and goalkeepers he faced play their football in Europe’s top divisions. You would not have been able to tell the difference back in June.
Alexander Nübel – Schalke 04’s new captain – could do little as Puşcaş’ sweetly executed header shot past him to give Romania the lead in the semi-final of the Under-21 Euros. In fact, only a few minutes later, if not for some Bundesliga-standard goalkeeping, Puşcaş would have had his hat-trick from an almost identical situation. Rising between Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s brutish Jonathan Tah and Timo Baumgartl – then of VfB Stuttgart, the Romanian frontman made a habit of doing to Germany’s defence what he had done through the tournament – tormenting.
That is the thing about George Puşcaş; he is a little rough around the edges, his co-ordination can sometimes seem slightly off when he is moving with the ball, but time and again he finds the net. He can take a little while to get going, and do not expect him to be quick at turning defenders with body feints, but when he is moving at speed, he can bulldoze. The expression ‘by hook or by crook’ springs to mind, because Puşcaş is the type of striker you want battling for the ball in a goalmouth scramble. He is the centre-forward that will only be emboldened by a seasoned Championship centre-back’s jagged approach.
It is this robust nature that endears him to the Romanian supporters – for whom he has scored four times in eight senior appearances, and 18 times in 25 games at Under-21 level. He complements his stocky, thick-set frame with occasional moments of real class and craft. Often in his hold-up play, Puşcaş will look to flick the ball to a team-mate, past a defender at the final moment. It is nice to watch, because it is the complete antithesis of his gruff demeanour.
At six-foot-two he is – as you would expect – quite good in the air, and instinctive with his right foot. His right foot specifically, because he does not seem all too clever when he elects to shoot with his left. Nevertheless, he is a good penalty box striker, as well as being able to drop deeper and bring others into play. He is not going to shirk challenges, or go missing too often if the ball is not falling his way.
The reason he excels for Romania is because of the familial atmosphere. The players are a very close, tight-knit unit, something he has never really been afforded at club level. Having said that, his goals record – as reductive a measurement of quality that is – has not suffered as a result.
As with any player who has not benefitted from consistent coaching in the same environment for longer than a year at a time, there are edges that need polishing. He is not quite a rough diamond, but Inter’s desire to re-sign him from financially-stricken Palermo with a view to turning a quick profit on him means that there is a player to be exploited there.
All in all, George Puşcaş is a centre-forward who is capable of dominating players, particularly some of the Championship’s slenderer central defenders. Powerful, strong, and unafraid to do the legwork if he feels appreciated, but also more mobile than his six-foot-two frame gives him credit for, Puşcaş is a coup for Reading. We might be seeing his trademark sniper goal celebration a few times at the Madejski.