Nicolae Mitea feels happy in Amsterdam. In the short period that the Romanian has played for Ajax, he has become a firm favourite with the fans, who accompany the winger with a loud chant whenever he has the ball. 'Opponents beware, Mitea is coming.'
If Nicolae Mitea would speak Dutch or English, the Romanian would be chatting endlessly. But with voluntary, part-time interpreter Bogdan Lobont at his side, it is a lot quieter the afternoon after ADO Den Haag - Ajax (1-4). Mitea's story is fluently and quickly translated and reduced to the core.
Mitea is the third child of a shoe maker's family of five children, who lived in Pantelimon, a suburb of Bucharest. None of his three brothers play football. Nicolea does, beginning when he was six years old. After playing unorganised football for a few years, he joined a club, FR Bucaresti. From there he was placed at Rapid Bucuresti and later transferred to cross-town team Dinamo, where he played nine matches. Always as a forward, with Hagi as his favourite player. It must be a incredible honour, and perhaps added pressure as well for Mitea, that the Romanian football afficionados see in him the new Hagi. Thus said a Romanian reporter when he visited Ajax last week.
The 18-year old impressed Ajax's technical staff when he was on a trial stage at the club during the summer. So much even, that Ronald Koeman wanted him for Ajax. Not for this season, but for the future. However, Mitea's development exceeds all expectations and so it happended that in the past weeks not Victor Sikora or Tom Soetaers was in the starting line-up, but the mercurial Mitea. In respect to his competitors, he mainly 'is a constant threat, every time he touches the ball', Koeman explained his choice for the youngest of the trio of left wingers at Ajax.
Mitea's start against ADO was his second in a week. ,,I never expected it to go so fast", says the left winger. ,,I was very surprised that I started against Celta de Vigo. I did not think it would happen before the winter break."
Two starts for Ajax 1 and a short appearance in the national team of Romania (against Ukraine) later, and he is on the right way, but not nearly has he reached his destination. ,,I have to train very hard now to make sure the coach keeps picking me for the left flank. It is a great honour for me to start", says Mitea, who cannot tell the difference between Romanian and Dutch defenders after only a few matches.
He does know the difference between Romanians and the Dutch, after a couple of months in the Netherlands. ,,The Dutch are straighter, more honest. You know what you get with them. If they say they will do something, it will happen. That's different with Romanians."
Bogdan Lobont has been his guide in Holland, but Mitea has moved into his own house this week. Before that he stayed with the goalkeeper and his family. Mitea's mother has come over with her sister and she will stay with her son at least until the winter break. ,,Bogdan has helped me a lot in the beginning. When we are on the road with Ajax, share a room with Zlatan and we speak English."
Mitea says that he has learned a lot in the short period that he has been here. ,,Each match I play gives me more confidence." Lobont adds: ,,I think you can clearly see the difference. In the beginning he was always looking down, now his head is up."
A sign of growth. The diamond in the rough starts to shine and judging from the reaction of the coaches, players and fans, much is expected from the young winger. ,,I resemble Jesper Olsen? I don't know him. I am Mitea and I look like Mitea!"