Gheorge Hagi Soccer Great
by T. Abio
Born in Sacele, Gheorge Hagi's (also called Gica Hagi) outstanding talent was discovered quickly and after playing for Farul Constanza and Sportul Bucharest for a short period of time, he was transferred to Steaua Bucharest in 1987. In Romania’s premier club, he won the league and cup double three years in a row.
Hagi was a very skillful and creative player and very often did unpredictable things with the ball. Gheorghe played in his first World Cup in Italy in 1990. Although he displayed a few flashes of brilliance in some games, that year was not going to be his best. Romania bowed out in the second round after losing to Ireland on penalties. Hagi was at the peak of his career by the time of the World Cup four years later in America, and he showed the world what he was capable of doing.
He was the best player of the tournament alongside the likes of Romario and Roberto Baggio. He also found the net three times in that World Cup with one of them being a wonderful 40 yard lob against Colombia. However, once again penalties stood between Romania and further advancement as Sweden won in the quarterfinal. Hagi played for Real Madrid, Barcelona and Brescia with variable success and never quite unleashed his true potential at clublevel abroad. He struggled with disciplinary problems on the field and was suspended several times.
When Romania qualified for the World Cup in 1998, he said it would be his last tournament. Romania reached the second round and lost 1-0 with the goal scored...yes, from a penalty. He made a come-back prior to Euro 2000 and got sent off in his 125th and last match for Romania in the quarterfinal against Italy. Hagi spent the final stages of his career in the Turkish league for Galatasaray where he had success winning the UEFA Cup and played some of his best soccer at club level ever.