Evasive skills learned during government espionage missions landed former Barcelona captain Gheorghe Popescu behind the bars

With clubs heading for their pre-season campaigns in a few weeks, social media is filled with transfer news and rumours. Under the frenzy of transfers, the footballing world was shocked when a suspenseful story of a former Barcelona captain resurfaced.

Over his illustrious career, the former Romanian defender Gheorghe Popescu has been in the spotlight due to his on-field heroics and his intriguing personal life. The Romanian has had an interesting career, playing for esteemed clubs like FC Barcelona, PSV, Galatasaray, and Tottenham Hotspur throughout his career. From footballing glory to behind bars, the 55-year-old has an interesting story behind him. Let’s find out what he did to get such punishment!

Former Barcelona star Gheorghe Popescu worked as a Romanian spy

In 1995, Popescu was transferred from Tottenham Hotspur to the Catalan club for a fee of around $4 million. During his 2-year stint, the defender played 94 games, scoring 13 goals and providing one assist. Upon his arrival at Camp Nou, Popescu was handed the captain’s armband and under his leadership, the team won a Cup Winner’s Cup and the Copa Del Rey. In the summer of 1997, the Romanian departed from the city of Barcelona and joined the Turkish side Galatasaray.

According to multiple reports, during his early days with Universitatea Craiova, the defender had been a spy. In the 1980s during the reign of Nicolae Ceausescu, Popescu assisted the secret Romanian police by sharing the details of his teammates and other colleagues. For three years, the former Romanian captain wrote down information about the people at the Universitatea Craiova club.

Initially denying his involvement, the 55-year-old later admitted to signing documents promising to safeguard national interests.

Popescu earned himself jail time following tax evasion in 2014

Gheorghe Popescu is considered one of the best players produced by Romania. The defender earnt 115 caps for his nations and played a vital part in various World Cup and European Championship campaigns.

Despite being a prominent player in the 90s, the former Romanian National Team player made headlines in the 21st century. In 2014, the six-time Romanian Player of the Year and seven others were convicted of tax evasion and money laundering. They were involved in registering false sums for the transfer of players from Romania to other countries. 



The court stated that the clubs had lost close to $11 million and the state had lost $2 million due to tax evasion. Regarding the case, the Court of Appeal said “The sentences cannot be appealed and are deemed final.” In 2015, the former Barcelona captain was released from jail after serving half of his sentence due to good conduct. 

During his time in jail, Gheorghe Popescu wrote and published books that helped him receive a reduced sentence. Nowadays, he is more famous for his off-field actions than for his success as a footballer.


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