Gheorghe Hagi

Gheorghe Hagi (or Gică Hagi, born February 5, 1965 in Săcele, Constanţa County) was a Romanian football player who played for the Romanian National Team in three World Cups. He was a top attacking midfielder of eighties and nineties in Europe. He was exquisite in passing, ball control and he had great long-range shots. Wherever he played, Hagi left his mark on the game and he was the first Romanian player to truly play at the highest club level possible, since he managed the rare feat of playing for both Spanish giants, Real Madrid and Barcelona. Nicknamed Maradona of the Carpathians or The King, he is a hero in his homeland. He has won his country's Player of the Year award a record six times, and was recently named Romania's player of the century. Now, Gheorghe Hagi is a successful coach and businessman.

Hagi started playing for the local team Farul since an early age. He shone out ever since he was a young boy, despite his small frame and fragile look. He did not have the sheer power of his teammates, but he had an outstanding technique, allowing him to play in championships with kids 3-4 years older. At age 17, Gheorghe Hagi was selected for Farul's senior team, but he would not play there for more then a season, being bought by much wealthier Bucharest-based team Sportul Studenţesc. In the 4 seasons spent at Sportul, Hagi became a name in Romanian soccer. He was top scorer for the club with no less than 58 goals in 107 matches.

This attracted the interest of several European clubs, but with the communist regime still reigning in Romania, he moved to Steaua Bucharest, who just managed the most important achievement in Romanian soccer history, namely winning the European Cup (today's Champions League) in 1986 and thus qualifying for the Super Cup. Actually, Hagi was given an original contract that would last just one match; the final! He played in the Super Cup against UEFA Cup winner Dynamo Kiev and Hagi managed to score the only goal of the match, from a superb free kick. After this feat his contract was prolonged and Hagi played for Steaua another 3 seasons, in which he scored 76 goals in 97 matches, before being picked up by Spanish giant Real Madrid.

Hagi spent 2 seasons at Madrid, but unfortunately didn't manage to win any trophies in Spain with either Real or FC Barcelona. He played 67 matches for Real, scoring 15 goals but he found it hard to adapt to the Spanish soccer and lifestyle, so he decided to move to Brescia in Italy's Serie B (Second Division) where he would be coached by one of his career's mentors, Mircea Lucescu. Winning promotion with Brescia, Hagi was on his way for fame again, but unfortunately Brescia dropped right back in Serie B after one season and Hagi was still in his career's prime and did not want to waste away in a second division, be it the second division of the most powerful championship in the World at that time. His move from Brescia to FC Barcelona saw him return to the Spanish championship but this time with even less success than at Real, since he only played 35 matches for Barca, scoring a total of 7 goals and not winning any trophies.

In 1996, he decided to move closer to home and play for Turkish side Galatasaray Istanbul. Already 31 yo, many rushed to say that Hagi was a finished player, but at Galatasaray he had the best time of his career. The Turkish club team won the UEFA Cup title in 2000. Prior to his retirement in 2001, he won 125 international caps, scoring 35 goals.

Hagi has since returned to football as a coach. He became the head coach of the Romanian National Team in 2001. He then took over as coach of Turkish first division side Bursaspor but left that club after a disappointing start to the season. After a 18 month hiatus spent running a coastal Black Sea hotel and appearing in television commercials, he then returned to club management at the helm of the club at which he won his first European trophy, Galatasaray. In November 2005, Gheorghe Hagi took over as manager at FCU Politehnica Timişoara.

Hagi is ethnically Aromanian. In March 2004, he was named among the FIFA Top 100 living footballers by Pelé.


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