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I’m a former Premier League star and played for Barcelona but...
GHEORGHE POPESCU played for Tottenham and Barcelona but also lived a double life as a spy.
The former Romania international starred for some of Europe’s biggest clubs during his career.Times Newspapers LtdGheorghe Popescu played in the Premier League for Tottenham[/caption] GettyPopescu also had a double life as a spy during his playing career[/caption]
However, it was his role as a government informant in his home country that is arguably the most striking detail from his playing days.
Popescu was first recruited by Romania’s secret police force, the Securitate, whilst playing for Universitatea Craiova in the 1980s under the former Communist regime.
At the time, U Craiova were the biggest club in Romania without an affiliation to a government body.
The Securitate spent much of the decade attempting to bring down Steaua Bucharest, who were backed by the army.
Popescu even spent a season on loan at Steaua from U Craiova, winning a league and cup double with the club.
He has justified his actions by claimed he had signed a document in 1985 promising to ‘defend the national interests’ of the late dictator Ceausescu — who was executed on Christmas Day 1989.
According to The Guardian, Popescu’s spy past may have caused him some conflicts of interests during his career.
It did not limit his success on the pitch, though, as he was named Romanian footballer of the year six times.
The defender also won 115 international caps, scoring 16 goals and representing Romania at three World Cups and two European Championships.
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As for his club career, Popescu won both the UEFA Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup, having spells with PSV and Galatasaray as well as his stints at Barcelona and Spurs.
During his sole season in England with Spurs, he made 23 Premier League appearances, scoring three goals.
Popescu later played in Italy and Germany either side of a return to Romania with Dinamo Bucharest before retiring in 2003.
He is now the president of reigning Romanian champions Farul Constanta, who are owned and managed by Gheorghe Hagi.
In 2021, the club merged with Viitorul, who had been founded by Hagi, who is also Popescu’s brother-in-law.
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