Many of his fans wondered what happened to Zlatan when he left Paris Saint Germain in 2016. After all, the star player had a massive fan base among the PSG supporters, he was revered by them, greeted with a standing ovation twice during a match against Nantes in 2016, upon him becoming the top goalscorer of Ligue 1. He left to play for Manchester United for two seasons, then moved on to the MLS team LA Galaxy – the club where the best European footballers are said to go when they are ready to retire.
Zlatan can consider himself lucky – he was born in a country where the government didn’t interfere with the free movement of athletes, and in an age when he could capitalize his talent at the best teams. There were, in turn, many players who could’ve done the same – but, unfortunately for them, they were born on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain.
László (Ladislau) Bölöni is one of the best footballers ever to be born in Romania. Born in Târgu Mureș, Romania, he started to play football at an early age at a local team, then moved to ASA Târgu Mureş, a team dissolved ever since. In 1984, he moved to Steaua Bucuresti, considered one of the best teams in Romania at the time – the team also had quite some international fame, having won the European Cup in the 1985-86 season, the European Super Cup in 1986, and finished the Intercontinental Cup in second place in the same year – with the team that Bölöni was an integral part of. While playing for the National Team, Bölöni scored one of his most vital goals ever, in the 1–0 win against Italy in a Euro 84 qualification match. Bölöni won 102 caps for Romania and scored 23 goals.
Bölöni spent his prime behind the Iron Curtain – he left Romania for Belgium in 1988, aged 35. After four more years as an active player for Racing Jet Bruxelles and then theFrench team US Créteil, he retired from active duty in 1992. He returned to football as a coach for Nancy-Lorraine in 1994 and stayed with the team for six years before returning to Romania to manage the National Team in 2000.
Cămătaru started his professional career at the age of 16 with the local team Universitatea Craiova, in 1974. He was part of the team when it won the national league in 1980 and 1981, then transferred to Bucharest club Dinamo where he became the Divizia A (Romania’s top division) top goalscorer with 44 goals in 33 games in his first season. He stayed with the club until 1989, when the Iron Curtain fell – he then transferred to Belgian club Charleroi – he was over 30 at the time. He finished his career as a striker at Heerenveen, after playing in 63 league games and scoring 23 goals for the team.
Gavril Pele “Gabi” Balint started playing football at the age of 11, with his local team Hebe Sângeorz-Băi, then moved on to Gloria Bistrița as a youth, at the age of 15, before joining the successful Bucharest club Steaua București in 1980. He was part of the squad that won the league titles between 1985 and 1989, the Romanian Cup in 1985, 1987, and 1989, the European Cup in the 1985-1986 season, and the European Super Cup in 1987. He was capped 34 times for the National Team and scored 14 goals, two of them in the 1990 World Cup in matches against Cameroon and Argentina.
He left Romania in 1990, at the age of 27, in a transfer worth $1 million, to play with the Spanish side Real Burgos. He stayed with the team until his retirement in 1993. After retiring from active duty, he managed several teams, including Galatasaray (assistant), Sheriff Tiraspol, and the Romanian National Team (as an assistant).