Mirel Matei Rădoi (born 22 March 1981) is a Romanian former football midfielder who also played as a centre back.
Radoi is considered a symbolic player for Steaua București. He became also a symbolic player for Al-Hilal and in Saudi Arabia, in June 2010 being named Player of the Year in the Saudi Professional League. His main nickname at Steaua was "The Godson", being the Godson of Steaua's owner, Gigi Becali. Other nicknames include "Zorro", "The Captain" and "The Warrior". Rădoi is well known for his leadership and tackling and also has the ability to drive forward, where his technical skills come into use.
Rădoi started to play football at the age of eight, first as a goalkeeper and then as a defender. He started his youth career at Turnu Severin and there he was spotted by Sorin Cârțu, the coach of Extensiv Craiova, who purchased Rădoi in 1999. Cârțu financed the transfer with his own money because he was so impressed with his ability. He noted Rădoi's potential to play at a higher level during his time at Extensiv Craiova. He made his professional debut in 1999, in a defeat against Dinamo București on 4 March 2000. Just one year later, however, he left the club.
Mirel Rădoi joined Steaua București in the summer of 2000 for a fee of €110,000. Whilst describing his first day at Steaua, he said, "It was like a positive shock for me. Suddenly I was in the same place with players like Iulian Miu, Marius Baciu and Miodrag Belodedici, players I saw on TV. It was like a dream."
His coach at Steaua was Victor Pițurcă, the former Romania national team coach, who promoted him to the Steaua first team. He then became one of Steaua's most important players. In his first match for the club, Rădoi played very well, scoring at the Ghencea football stadium when the score was 4–3 (against FCM Bacău); Rădoi equalled the score in the ninth minute after Cătălin Cursaru opened the score less than a minute before.
In 2001, at the end of the first season at the club, he helped Steaua win the championship of the Romanian league, and later the Supercupa României against rivals Dinamo. In 2005, Rădoi won a second championship title, and in 2006 the 23rd championship title for Steaua and his third personal. On 24 February 2005, he won an important match in the UEFA Cup against holder Valencia, and in 2006 (with Rădoi as captain) the team had played the UEFA Cup semi-final against Middlesbrough but lost 4–3 on aggregate.
In 2006, after a ten-year absence, Steaua qualified for the UEFA Champions League, being grouped alongside Real Madrid, Lyon and Dynamo Kyiv, although Rădoi did not play in the first games because due to injury.
In the summer of 2006, rumour circulated that Rădoi would be signed by Premier League club Portsmouth as soon as the transfer window would open in England, with the transfer fee speculated at around £11 million. The rumours did not materialize, however, many believing that the £11 million offer was no more than a mediatic attempt to rise the player's potential transfer fee. In the end, Steaua owner Gigi Becali stated that he would no longer sell Rădoi.
Being injured, he only played his first official game in the 2006–07 season on 12 November, when Steaua won 6–0 against Național București. Although he had been absent for a period of five months, he scored a penalty for Steaua with his first touch of the ball. He was a key player for Steaua in his nine seasons and captained the team for many years.
In January 2009, Rădoi signed a three-year contract with Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal which earned him €1.4 million annually. The transfer fee Steaua received was in the region of €6 million. Rădoi made his debut for Al-Hilal in the local derby against Al-Nassr; Al-Hilal won the game with 2–0 and Rădoi scored the second goal.
After the sixth game, against Al-Shabab, he won the Prince Cup with Al-Hilal. He was nicknamed "The Warrior" among his fans in Saudi Arabia. While at Al-Hilal, he was voted Saudi Professional League Player of the Year. They even made a complete book about his career and has been published online with official website MRadoi.com. Rădoi spent three years at the club, becoming a legend, and the team's captain, before he was reunited with ex-Al-Hilal and Steaua manager Cosmin Olăroiu at Al Ain.
In June 2011, Rădoi was transferred to Al Ain for a fee of €4.2 million. He put pen to paper for a two-year contract worth €2.5 million annually.
For the Romania national team, Rădoi has been capped 67 times, in which he scored two goals. In 2005, he was suspended by the coach of Romania, Victor Pițurcă, for leaving the national team training camp without permission, before matches against the Netherlands and Armenia. Coach Pițurcă recalled him back in February 2006 to play in a friendly tournament in Cyprus after Rădoi apologised for his behaviour.
Although he was included in Romania's squad for UEFA Euro 2008, he suffered a head injury in the second group game against Italy after a clash of heads with team-mate Răzvan Raț, who emerged unscathed. It was revealed that he would require eye surgery, and also suffered a broken nose and could therefore play no further part in the tournament. After a confrontation with Răzvan Lucescu in 2010, Radoi declared that he would retire from the national team.
Rădoi has a very strong personality and acted as adviser to Gigi Becali, Steaua's owner and chairman. Becali is also his godfather, and it is alleged that the choice of coach at Steaua has been influenced by Rădoi. It is rumored that the former Steaua coach Cosmin Olăroiu was brought to the club at the request of Rădoi. In a 2006 poll conducted by Romanian Television to identify the "greatest Romanians of all time", Rădoi came in 21st.
(Correct as of 24 May 2015) Steaua București
Romanian League (3): 2000–01, 2004–05, 2005–06
Romanian Super Cup (2): 2001, 2006
UEFA Cup semi-finalist: 2005–06
Saudi Professional League (2): 2009–10, 2010–11
Crown Prince Cup (3): 2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11
UAE Pro-League (2): 2011–12, 2012–13
UAE Super Cup (1): 2012
UAE President's Cup (1): 2013–14
Saudi Professional League Player of the Year: 2010
Romanian Footballer of the Year: 2005 (Runner-Up)