A face familiar to Chelsea fans will take to the dugout tonight in Romania and aim to end Celtic’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League group stages.
Dan Petrescu, a man who played for Chelsea more than 150 times in the late 1990s, is now the manager of five-time Romanian champions CFR Cluj, who face Neil Lennon’s Bhoys tonight.
Petrescu is no stranger to European success. As a mercurially talented player, he won the UEFA Super Cup and the UEFA Cup Winners Cup with Chelsea, the club where he is most fondly remembered after a trophy-laden playing career that also included spells at Bradford, Southampton and Genoa.
As a manager, he has grown into a wiley operator and has already begun the mind games with his opposite number. He has talked up tonight’s opponents from the Scottish capital ahead of kick off and even compared their chances to Ajax’s from last campaign: “They were unbelievable and were a surprise and Celtic should try the same I think, If they get to the group stage, they'll do well."
He also heaped the pressure on Celtic by using the word “miracle” when discussing his sides’ chances, something that didn’t go down well with Lennon. Petrecu said: “It is not going to be easy, but sometimes miracles could happen - even Leicester winning the league and even Unirea Urziceni winning the league and then beating Glasgow Rangers 4-1 away, I'm sure we need a perfect game in both legs."
As part of the side that won the FA Cup and League Cup for Chelsea - as well as league titles for Steaua Bucharest in his homeland - he has transferred those talents into the managerial game. His side have won the Romanian league for the past two seasons and his stock has remained high despite indifferent spells at Guizhou Hengfeng in China and Al Nasr in Dubai.
His romantic relationship with the Blues in London began as he moved to the English capital in 1995, after a successful spell with Sheffield Wednesday. He followed this with an eye-catching performance for with Romania at the 1994 World Cup and it was Chelsea who plumped to bring in the attacking right-back.
Over time he became a hit with the Stamford Bridge faithful, putting in dedicated performances for a Chelsea side featuring some iconic names. He played alongside Dennis Wise, Marcel Desailly and Gianfranco Zola during his time at the club and it was only a fallout with manager Gianluca Vialli that lead to his exit.
He moved on to Bradford and then Southampton before finishing his career in his homeland and beginning his managerial career. He learnt his trade in Romania, Poland and Russia before landing the Dynamo Moscow job in 2012. A 50% win ratio wasn’t enough to keep him at the club and Qatar came calling which began a globe-trotting adventure for 51-year-old.
Now he seems to have settled back in his homeland with the current champions. A Champions League campaign would come as a shock to this former Chelsea icon but we would love to see him take on his former club in Europe.