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If there's one player that scares me in Euro2000 in our qualifying group it is Hagi. Check out the following article. It seems the whole team will be playing for this man's honor, and we know how good he was against us in qualifying. I hope Romania succeeds against Germany and England but not against us. I do think he will be the second best player in our group next to Figo though.

Hagi ready for his last big challenge
By Radu Timofte


BUCHAREST, May xx (Reuters) - The legs are ageing but

Gheorghe Hagi will still be Romania's key man when he makes his final bow on the international stage at Euro 2000.

Now 35 and officially honoured as his country's player of the century last December, the stocky playmaker is unlikely to be outshone by any of his younger team mates in his last tournament before retirement.

Hagi's physique and ball skills earned him comparisons with Diego Maradona at his peak.

Seventeen years since his international debut, Hagi has remained a power to be reckoned with and has helped his Turkish club Galatasaray to four league titles in a row as well as a place in this season's UEFA Cup final.

His dazzling form in the UEFA Cup suggest he could even be stronger now than when he helped Romania to their best-ever international performance, reaching the quarterfinals in the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

Hagi has captained Romania 61 times, playing in two European finals and three World Cup finals.

He has tried to retire from the international scene repeatedly but has been unable to resist the call of his countrymen.

Hagi first called it a day after the 1998 World Cup finals but came back for one match -- helping Romania beat Hungary for the first time in 63 years.

Supporters gave him a race horse and named a pastry after him in gratitude and begged him to continue.

Goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont was equally swept up in the emotional return, announcing ``I'll be happy to make Hagi's bed every morning in our training camp.''

The result was inevitable and Hagi announced last June that he would continue, helping Romania qualify for the European championship finals with an unbeaten run in group seven.

``My body and my heart tell me that I have to go on,'' he said at the time.

The midfielder then announced last January that he would play in Euro 2000 and his final appearance for Romania would be a friendly against Yugoslavia in Bucharest on August 22.

Hagi started out with Farul Constanta -- the Black Sea port club that has renamed their stadium after him -- Sportul Studentesc and Steaua Bucharest in Romania, before moving to Real Madrid in 1990 for $4.3 million.

His transfer fee record was only beaten by compatriot Adrian Ilie in 1997.

Hagi played for Italy's Brescia for two years from 1992 and then joined Spanish side Barcelona until 1996, when he moved to Galatasaray.

He has said he is considering either returning home or moving to Major League Soccer in the United States after the European championship finals.

Romanian federation president Mircea Sandu has also suggested that Hagi be given the job of deputy national coach, provided he decides to retire as a player. ``Hagi could be Romania's coach after 2002, if he wants to,'' he said.
 
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