Niculae eyes Romania return via Inverness

INVERNESS Caledonian Thistle's new recruit Marius Niculae believes his move to the Highlands can help him win back his place in the Romania national team.

The striker won the last of his 28 international caps in May 2006 and fell out of favour after struggling to hold down a first-team spot with German side Mainz.

But, after passing a medical and agreeing a two-year contract with Caley Thistle yesterday, Niculae said:

"I was not a regular with Mainz last season so I lost my international spot, but I'm still only 26 and coming to Scotland can make the difference.

"I'm here for a new challenge. I think the SPL will be more physical than the Bundesliga but I can cope with that."

Niculae will become the first Romanian to play in the SPL after Daniel Prodan failed to make an appearance for Rangers. And the forward is relishing the opening game of the season against the Ibrox club on 4 August.

"Our first game is against Rangers and I'll be working hard to be involved in that one as I've watched Celtic and Rangers on TV," he said.

Meanwhile, Inverness maintained their 100 per cent record in pre-season friendlies this year with a 2-0 victory at Clach last night. Zander Sutherland fired the opener and trialist Phil Marsh scored from the spot for Caley Thistle, while Niculae was an interested observer in the Grant Street stand.