Friday, 17 April 2009on
Gheorghe Hagi (pronounced [gee-or-ger ˈha.ʤi] in Romanian; born February 5, 1965 in Săcele, just two kilometres from my home at Tarlungeni, in Transylvania), is a Romanian former football player and a living legend at home. He was famous for his passing, close control, long shots and was regarded as one of the best attacking midfielders in Europe during the 1980s and 1990s.
Nicknamed "The Maradona of the Carpathians", he is considered a hero in his homeland as well as in Turkey. He has won his country's "Player of the Year" award six times, and was recently named Romanian football player of the century.
He played for the Romanian national team in three World Cups in 1990, 1994 and 1998, as well as in three European Football Championships in 1984, 1996 and 2000. He won a total of 125 caps for Romania, being ranked second after Dorinel Munteanu, and scored 35 goals, being ranked first.
In November 2003, to celebrate UEFA's Jubilee, he was selected as the Golden Player of Romania by the Romanian Football Federation as their most outstanding player of the past 50 years. Hagi is one of the few footballers to have played for both the Spanish rival clubs Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.
In March 2004, he was named among the top 125 living footballers by Pelé.
He started his career playing for the youth teams of Farul Constanţa in the 1970s, before being selected by the Romanian Football Federation to join the squad of Luceafărul Bucureşti in 1980 for two years. In 1982 he returned to Constanţa, but one year later, aged 18, he was prepared to make the step to a top team. He was originally directed to Universitatea Craiova, but chose Sportul Studenţesc of Bucharest instead.
In the winter of 1987 Hagi was transferred to Romanian giants Steaua Bucureşti as the team prepared their European Super Cup final against FC Dynamo Kyiv. The original contract was for one game only, the final. However after winning the trophy, Hagi scoring the only goal of the final, Steaua did not want to release him back to Sportul Studenţesc and retained him for the next years. During his Steaua years, (1987 - 1990), Hagi played 97 Liga I games, scoring 76 goals. He and the team reached the European Cup semifinal in 1988 and the final in the following year, champions of Romania in 1987, 1988 and 1989 and winning the Romania Cup in 1987, 1988 and 1989.
After the 1990 World Cup, he was signed by Real Madrid. The La Liga side paid $4.3 million to Steaua for him. Hagi played two seasons with Real Madrid and then was sold to Brescia Calcio.
Hagi helped Brescia Calcio win the Italian Serie B and get promoted to Serie A, but in the next season the club relegated back to Serie B, and after performing memorably on the 1994 World Cup, Hagi was signed by FC Barcelona.
After two years at FC Barcelona, sitting more on bench half season because of injuries. Hagi signed for Galatasaray S.K. at Galatasaray, he was both successful and highly popular among the Turkish supporters of the Istanbul side. Hagi and manager Fatih Terim built a team that would win four league titles. In 2000 was Hagi and Galatasaray's best year, with the Turkish side, lead by Hagi, managed to win the UEFA Cup after defeating Arsenal and then the European Super Cup Hagi's former club, Real Madrid. and win it, for the first time in Turkey's history. The mass hysteria caused by this win in Istanbul raised Hagi's popularity even further with the fans and made French ex-international Luis Fernández to say that "Hagi is like wine, the older it gets, the better it is". At 35 years of age, Hagi was living his career's best, winning every possible trophy with Galatasaray in 2000. When he retired in 2001, he remained one of the most beloved players in the Turkish and Romanian championships. Hagi is not only a prodigy in football, he also raised the quality of Turkish football to a new level.
Hagi made his debut for the Romania national team at the age of 18 in 1983 in a game against Norway played in Oslo. He was part of the Romanian team until 2000.
Hagi led the Romanian team to its best ever international performance at the 1994 World Cup, where the team reached the quarter finals before Sweden ended their run after winning the penalty shoot-out. Hagi scored three times in the tournament, including a memorable goal in their 3-2 surprise defeat of South American powerhouse and previous runners-up Argentina. In the first of Romania's group stage matches, against Colombia, Hagi scored one of the most memorable goals of that tournament, curling in a 40-yard lob over Colombian goalkeeper Oscar Córdoba who was caught out of position. He was named in the Team of the Tournament.
Four years later, after the 1998 World Cup, Hagi decided to retire from the national team, only to change his mind after few months and play at the 2000 European Football Championship.
Hagi retired from professional football in 2001, age 36, in a game called "Gala Hagi" on the 24th of April. He still holds the record as Romanian national team top scorer......AND HE IS STILL LOVED THE LENGTH AND BREADTH OF ROMANIA. HE IS OUR SPORTING HERO OF THE CENTURY !!!
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