By Vlad Stanescu
Marius Lacatus - The Romanian King
The 90s offered us a football without "extraterrestres", "galacticos" or petrodolars, but even so, we could easily find idols of the green fields: Maldini, Del Piero or Eric "The King" Cantona are just a few names.
Romanian fans had their own King, Gheorghe Hagi, who reign over from abroad. Another man and his team were leading the domestic Championship.
His stats grant him a record that no other romanian player can get close to: 10 Championships, 6 Romanian Cups, 3 Romanian Supercups, European Champions' Cup, European Supercup, another time finalist and semifinalist of Champions Cup, finalist of FIFA Intercontinental Cup.
For Romanian national team, he played 84 matches (13 goals), participating at World Cup 1990 (when he scored a historic double against USSR) and Coupe de Monde 1998, as well as European Championship in 1996.
For Steaua he played 357 matches, scoring 98 times and currently holds the record for appearances in European Cups (71 matches) in which he scored 17 times.
In 1998, at World Cup's groups draw, he was invited to play for Europe in a friendly against Rest of the World team, game in which he scored a goal.
After winning the Romanian Cup in 1999, by crossing in extra time for his old comrade Belodedici's goal, he's forced to play another year at FC National before retirement, instead of hanging the boot in Steaua's locker as it would have been normal and he would have deserved after all that he offered to the team.
And so, the perfect striker who rocked the post in Sevilla, who executed Dasaev both with Steaua and Romania, who invented a freekick chip assist over the wall for Ionuţ Lupescu (vs. Wales) or Adrian Ilie (vs. FC Brugges), who scored a diving header against Paris Saint-Germain and who fought for every single ball said goodbye to the field and let the burden of his number 7 to whoever follows his footsteps at Steaua.
He dedicated himself to coaching, accumulating experience at Oţelul Galaţi, FC Braşov or UTA before coming back home in 2007. After a furious second part of the season, he missed the Championship title by only 1 point, but still managed to qualify for next year's UEFA Champions League group stage after knocking out Galatasaray.
For all the above, for generations of fans, he'll remain the one whom we drew 7 for on the back of our shirts, he remains Lăcă, he remains Fiara ("The Beast"), he remains the spirit that Steaua once stood for.
He's our old no. 7, Marius Lăcătuş!"