Gheorghe “Gică” Hagi is a Romanian former professional footballer, considered one of the best attacking midfielders in Europe during the 1980s and ’90s and the greatest Romanian footballer of all time. Galatasaray fans called him “Comandante” (“The Commander”) and Romanians call him “Regele” (“The King”). Nicknamed “The Maradona of the Carpathians”, Hagi is considered a hero in his homeland. He was named Romanian Footballer of the Year seven times, and is regarded as one of the best football players of his generation. As a creative advanced playmaker, he was renowned for his dribbling, technique, vision, passing and finishing. Hagi played for the Romania national team in three FIFA World Cups, in 1990, 1994 (where he was named in the World Cup All-Star Team) and 1998; as well as in three UEFA European Championships, in 1984, 1996 and 2000. He won a total of 125 caps for Romania, ranked second after Dorinel Munteanu, and is the joint leading goalscorer (alongside Adrian Mutu) with 35 goals. In November 2003, to celebrate UEFA’s Jubilee, Hagi was selected as the Golden Player of Romania by the Romanian Football Federation as their most outstanding player of the past 50 years. In 2004, he was named by Pelé as one of the 125 Greatest Living Footballers at a FIFA Awards Ceremony. He was listed at number 25 in World Soccer Magazine‘s list of the 100 greatest players of the 20th century. Hagi is one of the few footballers to have played for both Spanish rival clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona. In 2009, Hagi founded Romanian club Viitorul Constanța. He is currently both owner and chairman of the club. Hagi also established the Gheorghe Hagi football academy, one of the biggest football academies in Southeastern Europe. His son Ianis is also a footballer.
Things to Know:
Hagi made his debut for the Romania national team at age 18 in 1983 against Norway, in Oslo. He was part of the Romanian team until 2000. Hagi took part at the 1990 World Cup and later led the Romanian team to its best ever international performance at the 1994 World Cup, where the team reached the quarterfinals 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 Óscar 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 a few months and participate in UEFA Euro 2000, during which he was sent off in the quarter-final loss against eventual runners-up Italy. Hagi retired from professional football in 2001, age 36, in a game called “Gala Hagi” on 24 April. He still holds the record as Romanian national team top scorer.
Did you Know?
A talented left-footed attacking midfielder, Hagi’s playing style was frequently compared with Diego Maradona’s throughout his career, due to his technical ability as well as his temperamental character and leadership; as a youth, he was mainly inspired by compatriots Anghel Iordănescu and Ion Dumitru. A quick, highly creative, and mobile advanced playmaker, Hagi was also tactically versatile, and capable of playing in several midfield and offensive positions on either wing or through the middle, due to his ability with both feet, despite being naturally left-footed, although he had a preference for using his stronger foot; his preferred position was in a free role as a classic number 10, but he was also used as a second striker on occasion. Hagi was renowned in particular for his first touch and speed on the ball, bursts of acceleration and dribbling skills, which enabled him to get past defenders; he was also highly regarded for his vision and precise passing,although he was capable of both scoring and assisting goals, and was also an accurate finisher and set-piece taker, who had a penchant for scoring goals from long range. In spite of his small stature, Hagi possessed significant upper body strength, which, along with his control, aided him in protecting the ball from opponents, and allowed him to create space for himself or his teammates. Despite his skill and his reputation as one of the greatest number 10s of his generation, his career was marked by inconsistency at times, and he was also considered to be a controversial player, due to his rebellious and arrogant attitude, as well as his low work-rate and lack of discipline, which led him to have several disagreements with his managers, opponents, and officials. When he retired in 2001, Hagi remained one of the most beloved players in the Turkish and Romanian championships. Hagi is highly praised by the Galatasaray supporters. The classic chant “I Love You Hagi” was adopted by Gala fans since his arrival at Galatasaray.