‘You see,’ said Mr Merciu, as we tucked into our okroshka soup, ‘I enjoy being Chairman of FC Saxan. But there is one thing I’m not happy about: the problem of football managers.
‘We have had a succession,’ he continued. ‘Good, bad, and indifferent. You never know in advance. A manager does well at some club, then he comes here and maybe he succeeds or maybe he fails.’
It turns out that okroshka is a rich soup. It contains a little meat (veal, says Merciu) and much else besides; radishes and cucumbers, potatoes and sour cream. Onions too.
‘That’s one thing that annoys me – is there no such thing as a generally good football manager? So that we wouldn’t have to worry whether the manager we’re bringing in is a good fit for the club. I wonder about that.’
While Mr Merciu wonders about that, I’m wondering whether it’s egg that gives okroshka its texture. I think it must be.
‘And each manager we have, what do they do? They merely import their heritage. The dull-witted ones, they each set out to be a carbon copy of whoever they judge to be the best manager they played under.
‘The sharper ones, they add some twists – some things that had occurred to them as players but that they never previously had the power to implement. Some of those type, they do quite well. Until everyone catches up with them and their variations are no longer an enigma. Then they have no plan B. From about the age of 45, they are washed up.
‘So I think to myself, surely there must be some better way – some more rational way.’
And I think to myself, the okroshka is good. The merlot is good too – not as an accompaniment to the soup, but as a prelude to the pizza. And I’m looking forward to the capricioasa.
‘Managing a football team,’ Merciu continues – he’s footing the bill, so he has the floor – ‘is a complicated business, they tell me. Perhaps it is. But is it more complicated than landing a space craft on Mars? Or designing a computer that can defeat Kasparov at chess?
‘We engineer such things. In my agricultural machinery company, we figure out how to get tractor parts to all the farmers in Moldova — how to get them where they need them, when they need them. And we train them to use the latest equipment. It’s not easy, but we do it.
‘So I ask myself: football management – is it not possible to engineer it?’
Ah, the capricioasa.