Why Gheorghe Hagi is a footballing icon

Gheorghe Hagi

Lionel Messi, Neymar, Alexis Sanchez... once upon a time they would all have been playmakers, loping enigmatically behind the front two; as free of responsibility as an artist in his garret, asked only to create. Now they operate as second strikers or perform their magic from wide, chastened by the ideal of universality: all must press; all must perform their defensive duty.

The traditional playmaker is dead; the beginning of the end probably came sometime between a goal-starved Italia 90 and a joyless Euro 92. So concerned were FIFA by the increasing trend towards defensiveness that they outlawed the backpass and tried to eradicate the tackle from behind.

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