Gheorghe Hagi (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈɡe̯orɡe ˈhad͡ʒi]; born February 5, 1965 in Săcele) is a former Romanian footballer. He was famous for his passing, close control, long shots and was regarded as one of the best attacking midfielders in Europe during the 1980s and 1990s. Galatasaray fans called him 'Commandante' (The Commander).
Nicknamed "The Maradona of the Carpathians", he is considered a hero in his homeland as well as in Turkey. He has won his country's "Player of the Year" award six times, and is regarded as one of the best football players of the 20th century.
He played for the Romanian national team in three World Cups in 1990, 1994 and 1998, as well as in three European Football Championships in 1984, 1996 and 2000. He won a total of 125 caps for Romania, being ranked second after Dorinel Munteanu, and scored 35 goals, being ranked first.
In November 2003, to celebrate UEFA's Jubilee, he was selected as the Golden Player of Romania by the Romanian Football Federation as their most outstanding player of the past 50 years. Hagi is one of the few footballers to have played for both the Spanish rival clubs Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.
In March 2004, he was named the 25th among the top 125 living footballers by Pelé.
He started his career playing for the youth teams of Farul Constanţa in the 1970s, before being selected by the Romanian Football Federation to join the squad of Luceafărul Bucureşti in 1980 for two years. In 1982 he returned to Constanţa, but one year later, aged 18, he was prepared to make the step to a top team. He was originally directed to Universitatea Craiova, but chose Sportul Studenţesc of Bucharest instead.
In the winter of 1987 Hagi was transferred to Romanian giants Steaua Bucureşti as the team prepared for their European Super Cup final against FC Dynamo Kyiv. The original contract was for one game only, the final. However after winning the trophy, where Hagi scored the only goal of the game, Steaua did not want to release him back to Sportul Studenţesc and retained him. During his Steaua years (1987–1990), Hagi played 97 Liga I games, scoring 76 goals. He and the team reached the European Cup semifinal in 1988 and the final in the following year. Hagi and Steaua were the champions of Romania in 1987, 1988 and 1989 and as well as winning the Romania Cup in 1987, 1988 and 1989.
After the 1990 World Cup, he was signed by Real Madrid. The La Liga side paid $4.3 million to Steaua Bucureşti for him. Hagi played two seasons with Real Madrid and then was sold to Brescia Calcio.
Hagi started the season 1992–1993 with Brescia Calcio but in the first season the club was relegated to Serie B; in the next season Hagi helped Brescia Calcio win the Italian Serie B and get promoted to Serie A. After performing memorably during the 1994 World Cup, Hagi was signed by FC Barcelona.
After two years at FC Barcelona, Hagi signed for Galatasaray S.K.. At Galatasaray, he was both successful and highly popular among the Turkish supporters. Hagi and manager Fatih Terim built a team that would win four league titles. Over the years, Galatasaray, led by Hagi, managed to win the UEFA Cup after defeating Arsenal in the finals. This was followed by the capture of the European Super Cup with a historic win against Hagi's former club Real Madrid. Both feats were firsts, and remain unmatched in Turkish soccer history.
The mass hysteria caused by these wins in Istanbul raised Hagi's popularity even further with the fans and made French ex-international Luis Fernández to say that "Hagi is like wine, the older it gets, the better it is". In 2000, at the age of 35, Hagi had the best days of his career winning every possible trophy with Galatasaray. When he retired in 2001, he remained one of the most beloved players in the Turkish and Romanian championships.
* Supercopa de España: 1994
* Spanish Cup: Runner-up 1995–96