Very few top-level footballers have experienced a career drop and uprising as Gheorghe Hagi did during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Just as Diego Maradona was busy establishing himself as one of the world’s greatest in the mid 80’s, a certain 21-year-old Romanian prodigy was emerging in Bucharest.
1986 World Cup betting odds-on-favourites Brazil were knocked off in the quarter-finals, leaving second in line Argentina to grab the title under the tutelage of Dieguito. Player and punters can access international tournaments such as the World Cup or the EUROs along with majority of the most followed league tournaments around the world on sbo.net. Resources or guides prove to be helpful for first time users, who can also benefit from rewards and bonuses such as early cashbacks, pay outs, loyalty points etc.
At the same time as the Argentine legend’s heroics, Hagi had single handedly captured the 1986 European Super Cup with Steaua – an initial one-day loan deal that turned into a three year stay where he captured the attention of some of the top clubs in Europe. Thanks to his admirable performances for Steaua Bucharest during one of the club’s most successful eras, he took his career to greater heights by moving to Real Madrid. His four-year stint with the Romanian giants was the beginning of a journey that earned him the title of ‘Maradona of the Carpathians’.
Milan, Juventus and Bayern Munich’s offers were all rejected, that is until Los Blancos came calling before the World Cup in 1990 where Hagi would go on to impressed. The fall of Nicolae Ceaușescu’s Romanian Communist Party in December 1989 meant that the country returned to a democracy due to which the nation’s players for the first time had the freedom of movement and could choose where they wanted to go.
In what was expected to be a successful stay in Spain, ended up being largely disappointing, as he just missed out on the 1991/92 La Liga title on the final matchday against Tenerife in a year dominated by El Clasico rivals Barcelona. The Supercopa de Espana in his debut season in Spain was the only accolade he managed to achieve during his first two years in the Iberian Peninsula. The Spanish Supercup would be the only title he would win again in Spain two years down the lane with Barcelona.
Sandwiched between two Supercopa de Espana titles on either side – with Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively, an unlikely Brescia spell ensued for the Romanian great. In the summer of 1992, at the end of a disappointing season with Real Madrid, Brescia came along and shelled 8 billion Italian lira (approximately €4.5m in today’s money) for the left-footed genius. And there he began acquiring a cult status among the Biancazzurri faithful. He was signed by Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu’s side in a bid to compete with domestic heavyweights who had trios of the same nationality in an era where Italian teams had spots for only three foreign players. Milan had their golden trio of Dutchmen – Marco Van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard and Inter with their German equivalent of Lothar Matthaus, Andreas Brehme and Jurgen Klismann. Hagi had joined fellow Romanians Florin Raducioiu and Ioan Sabau in northern Italy.
Despite the presence of Hagi’s impressive stature, the Lombardy club succumbed to Serie A relegation after their last loss in a play-off game against Udinese. The 28-year-old had hit a new low after his unimpressive performances, but what came the season after etched his name into football folklore.
He stuck with the La Leonessa at the Stadio Mario Rigomonti and took his chance at redemption by helping the team to promotion in the 1993/94 Serie B season. He scored only 10 goals in 32 games but was utterly instrumental for the club in attack, ending his two seasons with a Serie A promotion and an Anglo-Italian Cup win.
Perhaps, he hit his peak in the 1994 FIFA World Cup in USA, leading Romania to its best ever international spot at the tournament – the quarter-finals, where they crashed out to Sweden on penalties. His superb defence-tearing displays in Serie B and the World Cup earned him a move to Barcelona, where he won just the Supercup, once more.
His stint in Catalonia would also come to an end after two years, as he moved on to etch a unique legacy in Galatasaray, where he ended his club career in 2001.
Most recently in March 2021, Hagi revealed his regret of leaving Real Madrid but admitted to having the pleasure of being able to play for two of the best clubs in the world.