My All Time ‘Cult’ World XI – 7. Gheorghe Hagi

This week I return to the European continent for the next addition to my all-time ‘cult’ world XI. Many describe him as the most underrated attacking midfielder of my generation and in my opinion created and perfected the ‘free role’ as we have now become to know it. Someone who could pick out the run of an Olympic sprinter with a 70-yard pass to feet, control a golf ball travelling at light speed and score from virtually anywhere… with either foot! Nicknamed ‘The Maradona of the Carpathians’ by people of his homeland, that at the time was a country struggling to come to terms with the poverty left behind by the regime of Nicolae Caucescu. He became a symbol of national pride and identity, capturing the hearts, thoughts and emotions of a country that consistently performed well at international tournaments, regardless of the problems we could frequently see in the news or on ‘Challenge Anneka’. It is the ‘Commandante’ from Romania; Gheorghe Hagi.

 

Gheorghe Hagi

Born in Săcele, Romania, Gheorghe’s early club career was a turbulent affair. Due to his talents he caught the eye of many clubs in the Romanian youth football leagues. Before making the step up to first team football, Gheorghe had already amassed two transfers before being selected, aged 18, for Sportul Studenţesc. Romanian football, as with many other leagues behind the iron curtain, had a number of clubs ran by different government agencies and hence it would not be long until any player of talent would be forcibly transferred for the ‘benefit’ of the football club and the national reputation. In 1987, he was ‘required’ to join Steaua Bucureşti, a club with strong ties to the Romanian Army, for one game – the European Super Cup. After scoring the only goal in that match, coupled with his exquisite performance, Steaua were very reluctant to let Hagi return to his parent club.

Having scored 76 goals in 97 appearances, helping Steaua reach the European Cup final in 1988 and setting Romanian football alight; he transferred to Real Madrid for the mighty fee of $4.3 million. Hagi’s Madrid career did not elevate him to predicted stardom many expected and his transfer to Brescia came as no surprise just two years later. After helping Brescia return to Seria A and for his exploits in USA ‘94, his next high profile move took Gheorghe to Barcelona, where to this day he remains one of the few players who have played for both clubs in Spain’s biggest and most fierce rivalry. Limited football over two seasons at the Catalan giants due to injury saw Gheoghe transfer to Galatasaray, where his contributions cemented him as a ‘legend’ amongst the Turkish side’s supporters. Galatasaray won four league titles and one UEFA Cup before ‘the Commandante’ achieved a slice of personal retribution by masterminding their Super Cup win over his former club Real Madrid. Hagi retired in 2001 from the Istanbul giants a living legend, amassing 59 goals in his 131 appearances.

“Hagi is like wine, the older it gets, the better it is” Luis Fernández

Hagi got my undivided attention in USA ’94, where his performances made football fans the world over ‘drool’ with appreciation. He complimented an already talented and industrious team helping Romania achieve their best performance at a World Cup still to this day before losing to Sweden in the Quarterfinals on penalties. His superlative performance in the 3-2 win over Argentina was a pleasure to watch as he single handedly carved the South American giants to ribbons, scoring a memorable goal in the process. Who could also forget his wonder goal against Colombia in the group stages? Possibly one of the best World Cup goals ever scored…

Gheorghe played in France ’98 and Euro 2000 before finally retiring a year later after 17 years playing for his country. He was also part of the team that deservedly qualified from the Euro 2000 ‘group of death’ eliminating both Germany and England along the way. He is currently at his spiritual home of Galatasaray for his second spell as Manager after unsuccessful spells at Steaua, Politehnica Timişoara, Bursaspor and Romania. Maybe Gheorghe Hagi is another one of those gifted footballers that can’t quite make that transition to football management?

Here are some of the “Commandante’s” most precious moments…

And one of the funniest…

Gheorghe deservedly makes it into my ‘cult’ team due to his magnificent talents, ‘grounded’ personality and contribution to his country. His role as a national ambassador gave Romanians pride in their football team’s achievements and helped to heal the scars of an impoverished and forgotten nation. A true legend and wonderful role model, Hagi we salute you!

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About simpkins83

Port Vale FC. No Pyro, No Party. Detroit, Biddulph, Berlin : A Techno Alliance. North Staffs Junglists. Militant Liberal & Georgist.
This entry was posted in All Time 'Cult' World XI, Football, Sport and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to My All Time ‘Cult’ World XI – 7. Gheorghe Hagi

  1. Cultural Void says:

    Not sure on this one buddy! Never got onto my radar, remember one or two good things but “cult”? Need some more convincing.

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