Once a star himself at both Barcelona and Real Madrid, the 51-year-old says that the Portuguese deserves the individual accolades from the last 12 months.
Romania legend Gheorghe Hagi believes Cristiano Ronaldo was a fitting winner of the Goal 50 after a trophy-laden year for the Portugal star.
Hagi turned out for both Barcelona and Real Madrid in a sparkling career, so is aware at the pressures at the very top of the game, and he has cited the 31-year-old’s contribution to his country’s European Championship win in France as decisive.
Asked who he felt was the best player of 2016, the former attacker told Goal: “Cristiano Ronaldo, mainly because he won the European Championship with Portugal. He has achieved a lot, he won the Champions League with Real Madrid, but I particularly appreciated his contribution to the European title with his country.”
In an almost unique position of having turned out for both Clasico clubs, the 51-year-old refused to pick a team that is currently stronger, although he did note distinct differences in the philosophies of both.
“I cannot judged them since I have played for both of them,” he laughed. I am proud that I have played for both Barcelona and Real Madrid – I am amongst the very few who have played for both of them.
“Real’s primary value is the individual, while in Barcelona the team is what counts the most. From this point of view, I appreciate Barcelona’s philosophy more.”
Despite this, if Hagi were playing today, he would not be swayed by one or the other.
“I played wherever I had the opportunity and it was perfect with all the clubs I played for,” he said. “I cannot say which team I would choose today. I have played for 2 of the greatest, Real and Barcelona!
“I would have liked to plays for Johan Cruyff“s Ajax, had something like this been possible.”
Now long-since retired, Hagi has an academy and it appears that he will be as successful with this venture as he was on the field.
“The Hagi Academy has developed extraordinarily during the last couple of years,” he said. “I have my own stadium, a 5,000 seater arena and many training facilities. The senior team [Viitorul Constanta] played in Europa League, and 70 per cent of the players were produced in the Academy. Around 30-50 % of the players for the national youth teams of Romania come from our Academy.
“In the last two games of the Romanian national team we had four players: Razvan Marin, Romario Benzar, Dragos Nedelcu and Bogdan Tiru. Marin and Benzar were in the starting line-up against Poland. The objective of the Academy is to provide players at the highest level.
“I am now much richer than I was when I played.
“Richer both as far as experience is concerned but also because when I was playing for Galatasaray I had only two kids, Kira and Ianis. Today I have a couple of hundred – all those who are learning how to play football in Hagi Academy.
“At the beginning I was just the owner of the Academy, but I had also ran it as a manager. Having a very good managerial experience, I became also the coach of Viitorul, a team that plays in the Romanian top division. This year we qualified for the Europa League.
“I have learned a lot during all of these years. I can say I am ready for a big challenge – to start winning trophies.