Gheorghe Hagi - “The Maradona of the Carpathians”, as he has been labeled by the media and by fans, is seen as the greatest Romanian football player of all times. He was the first Romanian who has played for European top clubs such as Real Madrid, Barcelona and Galatasaray. Through his outstanding dribbles, vision, execution of pass and shots from distance, he managed to impose himself as one of the world’s best players alongside Maradona or Pelé.
By Alexandra Fodor
Gheorghe Hagi was born in 1965 at Sacele, Romania. He started his career playing for the local team Farul Constanta until 1983 when he moved to Sportul Studentesc. In the four seasons spent at Sportul, Hagi became the club’s top scorer with 58 goals in 107 matches and imposed his name in the Romanian soccer arena. The same year (1983), he made his debut for the Romanian national team in a game against Norway. He was part of the Romanian team until 2000.
In 1986, Hagi was assigned to Steaua Bucharest to help the team win the European Supercup Final against Dynamo Kiev. The story of the transfer is quite amusing. The initial deal was for only one match (the Final), but after winning the trophy, Hagi scoring the only goal of the match, Steaua did not want to release him back to Sportul Studentesc and decided to keep him for the next years.
Hagi played for Steaua three seasons, in which he scored 76 goals in 97 matches, before being bought by Spanish giant Real Madrid for $ 4.3 million. He scored only 19 goals in two seasons for them and in 1992, he moved to Brescia where he played a major role in its promotion back to the A Series.
At the 1994 World Cup, Hagi led the Romanian team to its best international performance, bringing it in the quarterfinals. He made highlights by scoring vital goals for Romania, including a 35-meter lob against Colombia. (In 2002, the goal was voted the fifth best in World Cup history, in a poll hosted on FIFAworldcup.com) His stunning performance gave him another chance to play in Spain, but this time with Barcelona.
After two years at FC Barcelona, Hagi signed for Galatasaray with which he won the Turkish championship four consecutive times between 1997 and 2000, as well as two cups in 1999 and 2000. In 2000, he helped bring the first European trophies to a Turkish team, when Galatasaray won the UEFA Cup and SuperCup.
On 24 April 2001, Hagi retired from professional football in a game called "Gala Hagi". Famous sport stars such as Michel Platini, Carlos Dunga, Claudio Taffarel, Nadia Comaneci, Ilie Nastase, and Ion Tiriac attended the event.
In March 2004, he was named by Pelé among the top 125 living footballers.
In 2009, he inaugurated Gheorghe Hagi Football Academy, which it is the greatest private project of its kind in Central and Eastern Europe. In 2010, the ESPN channel voted him as one of the World Cup Legends alongside Maradona, Pelé, Platini, Eusebio, Zidane, or Bobby Charlton.
See below several short movies featuring Hagi. He is known for his famous left foot goals, many of which shot from the distance.