Hagi leaves Steaua over rift with owner

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The Independent Football

Gheorghe Hagi resigned as coach of Steaua Bucharest yesterday, a day after his team's Champions League defeat to Slavia Prague.

Hagi said he was quitting because of ongoing tensions with the club's owner, Gigi Becali. "I've had enough," Hagi said. "There was indescribable tension. I felt tortured at Steaua."

Hagi frequently clashed with the outspoken Becali, and the rows had got worse in recent weeks. Becali accused Hagi of being ill-prepared for the job and frequently went public with his criticisms.

Tensions increased further on Wednesday after Steaua lost 2-1 to Slavia Prague in Group H of the Champions League. Becali said he would no longer sacrifice the club's future for any coach "even if that coach is called Gheorghe Hagi".

The two were childhood friends, a fact mentioned by Becali when Hagi signed a three-year deal in June this year to coach the Romanian first-division club where he played from 1987 to 1990.

Steaua won the 1986 European Cup, beating Barcelona on penalties in the final, and also reached the final in 1989, before losing 4-0 to Milan.

Hagi scored 35 goals in 125 matches for the Romanian national team during a 20-year international career, and is considered to be the country's greatest ever footballer.