Tuesday, 27 May 2014
All time great close to joining Newcastle but never considered other English clubs
It's not every day of your life that you get to meet one of your heroes and one of the greatest players ever to grace the game, so today was nearly as special as the day I met Bobby Moore. And like Moore, Hagi proved to be a modest, affable man, full of charm, good manners and consideration.
The conversation was enlightening on a number of levels, not least when I asked if he had ever considered playing in England. Hagi smiled and said, "I had the chance to join Newcastle when Kevin Keegan was manager and the deal nearly happened. But it was not to be." There was no comment about West Ham, Leeds or Spurs!
Asked why Romanian players, apart from his brother in law Popescu, had never cut it in the English game, Hagi replied, "You have to have a real desire to play in England. You have to have a big heart, a hunger, a passion." The implication was that the likes of Dumitrescu, Raducioiu, Rat and Chiriches were / are lacking in that department but he was too polite to be specific.
Pressed on who is the better player, Ronaldo or Messi, the former maestro replied, "Both are great players, both are making history. Ronaldo has great power, athleticism and skill, but for me Messi is the player I prefer. He has more skill, he plays more for the team. I also like the way he conducts himself off the football field." (Of course the Spanish tax man might disagree there!)
When asked who was the greatest player ever, he was reluctant to name anybody replying, "That is a question of opinion. I have a saying, the greatest player is the player who wins the most trophies. That is what counts at the end of a career, not what people say about you. For me, I admired most Pele and Maradona and it was a great honour to be compared to Maradona - the player, not the man off the pitch! I also learnt so much from Cruyff and from the coaches at Ajax where I studied the academy. At Ajax they teach you to think about the game, to play the game in your head, to see the whole pitch and that is what I try to teach at my academy in Constanta."
He explained what made him special as a footballer: "It is all about speed, not speed across the ground but speed of thought. The best players think quicker. They see things quicker. And it is all about fight. You have to play with passion, with heart, with desire. When you lose it has to make you unhappy and that is the time to analyse, to work out why you did not win. But you fight when on the pitch, not off it."
And which is the best league in the world? "At the moment Spain. England is second." And on playing for both Real Madrid and Barcelona? "It was easier because Brescia came in between. Moving from one to the other would not have been so easy." And his views on the England national team? "I like the England team very much because I never lost to them!"
A great day meeting a great man. And Newcastle missed out on one hell of a player as this link will confirm: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ml0jqKw4SQ4
Posted by Hammersfan at 17:35