Ilie Balaci, one of Romania’s most celebrated football talents, has passed away at the age of 62. He spent 12 of his 15 years as a professional with Universitatea Craiova, appearing in more than 300 official games with the club and winning seven major titles.
Balaci claims that he was born on 8 September 1956 but his birth date was declared by his relatives to the People’s Council only on 13 September 1956. He has two daughters, the older one Lorena is married to footballer Eugen Trica and the younger one, Liana Ungur is a professional tennis player and she is married to Adrian Ungur
Balaci is considered one of the greatest Romanian footballers of all time, along with Gheorghe Hagi, Nicolae Dobrin, Marcel Raducanu and Florea Dumitrache.
In December 1982, he signed a pre-contract with Italian side Milan, but the transfer did not materialize because of the communist regime in Romania.
In the 1986-87 season, he joined Bucharest rivals Dunamo Bucuresti together with Craiova teammate Rodion Camataru. He spent two seasons at the club, under the leadership of Mircea Lucescu . However, Balaci did not win any major trophies whilst he was playing for them and following a knee injury he had to retire from football.
Nicknamed the Blond Miracle, Balaci spent the majority of his professional career with Universitatea Craiova, where he excelled as a creative midfielder between 1973 and 1984. Overall, he helped the club clinch three league titles and four Romanian Cups, as well as reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup in 1982/83.
Balaci was first capped by Romania while still only 17 in 1974 and went on to make 65 appearances, scoring eight goals. He was named Romania’s player of the year in 1981 and 1982, but was forced to retire through injury at the age of 31, after which he turned to coaching.
Balaci made his full international debut on 23 March 1974 in a friendly match against France at the age of 17. He earned 65 caps and scored 8 goals for the Romanian national team between 1974 and 1986.
He also became captain of the national team during the UEFA Euro 1984 qualifying campaign, but he was unable to play for Romania at UEFA Euro 84 due to an injury.
As well as taking charge of old club Universitatea Craiova on two occasions, he held posts in a number of countries including Morocco, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Balaci died on 21 October 2018, while at his home in Craiova, , Romania, at the age of 62, due to a stroke. Paramedics tried to resuscitate him but with no success.