Ilie Dumitrescu is widely considered to be part of Romania's golden generation, playing a key role at the 1994 World Cup, which saw the country reach the quarter-final. A tricky forward, he shot to fame at the tournament alongside Gheorghe Hagi, scoring twice and assisting the third in a 3-2 win over Argentina.
His displays led him to England with Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United, while after playing Dumitrescu tried his hand at coaching, bossing sides such as AEK Athens, PAOK Salonika and Steaua Bucharest.
Inside Futbol sent John Georgopoulous for an exclusive chat with the Romanian legend.
Inside Futbol (IF): Ilie Dumitrescu, do Tottenham have a chance of making the Champions League next season?
Ilie Dumitrescu (ID): I hope so. There is a possibility, but in this moment it is quite difficult. Manchester United are six points ahead and besides that prevailed 3-0 against Tottenham.
There is a difference when you compare this season's Tottenham with previous teams who had players playing at the highest level like Gareth Bale and Emmanuel Adebayor.
They also have good players now like Christian Eriksen, Nacer Chadli and Harry Kane, but they are not like the others of previous seasons.
IF: What’s your view on Harry Kane and his performances this season?
ID: He’s a promising player, there’s no doubt about that. I think that in the future he’s going to become even better. I hope that he can become the new Gareth Bale, but it’s difficult.
IF: Why do you think Vlad Chiriches, one of your countrymen, has not managed to establish himself yet at Tottenham?
ID: I believe in Vlad Chiriches. He is working very hard. It’s up to the manager. He had fantastic seasons with Steaua Bucharest and I believe he is a great and important player.
I’ve spoken to him a few times. I know he is training intensively and if the manager decides to give him a chance he will show his abilities. As I said though, the manager takes the final decision.
IF: Young Romanian defender Cristian Manea has been strongly linked with Chelsea. Do you think he could make the grade at Stamford Bridge? What do you know about him?
ID: Cristian Manea is a very young and talented defender. He is only 17. I can say that he is the best Romanian player in this age group. He has already made his debut and become the youngest player to appear for the Romania national team.
He has been developed at Gheorghe Hagi’s academy at Viitorul Constanta and is very mature for his age. He needs time because he is a promising player, but I think if Chelsea trust him he can play at that level.
IF: Was it a dream for you to join a Premier League club when you signed for Tottenham in 1994?
ID: It was my dream to play for Tottenham. As a child I supported two clubs: Steaua Bucharest in Romania and Tottenham abroad. So playing for this great club was the best thing that happened to me.
IF: Then you joined West Ham United. How was your relationship with Harry Redknapp?
ID: Harry Redknapp is an amazing manager, a fantastic manager. I had a great relationship with him at West Ham. He had the qualities to manage the club’s dressing room.
He is a fantastic person as well. He’s achieved some great records too, like being the Premier League Manager of the Year [in 2009/10].
IF: Speaking of managers, what are your current plans? Are you considering a return to coaching?
ID: You never know what the future brings. At the moment I’m enjoying my career as a TV commentator and football analyst at Digi Sport Romania. I have the chance to show my knowledge in analysing the Champions League, the Europa League and matches from major European leagues. I really love my new role.
IF: You worked as a coach for almost a decade. What do you remember most?
ID: I had good moments as a coach working in difficult situations. When I was working for AEK Athens we had a very good season. We were very close to the Greek Cup final, but in the semi-final against Panathinaikos the referee sent off two players. We played until the end, with nine versus eleven, and Panathinaikos took a [2-2] draw in added time.
We faced many problems at AEK Athens. The players went unpaid for six to nine months, but I managed to create a great atmosphere in the dressing room. Also, six or seven players from that team, like Theo Zagorakis, Michalis Kapsis, Vasilis Lakis, Kostas Katsouranis and Vasilas Tsartas became European champions with the Greek national team a few months later [at Euro 2004]!
The same happened with PAOK Salonkia. I had very good times there, but again the financial situation was very bad.
IF: Was the game against Argentina at the 1994 World Cup, where you scored two goals to help Romania win 3-2 and make the quarter-finals, the most important of your career?
ID: I also scored a goal from the penalty spot in the quarter-final against Sweden. But without a doubt the victory against Argentina was the highlight for the whole Romania team. It was a special achievement for my generation, a match to remember. For me of course it was something special because I was Man of the Match, scored two goals and assisted the third.
IF: Finally, you’re good friends with Gheorghe Hagi. How would you describe him?
ID: Gheorghe Hagi is by far the best Romanian player ever and one of the best of all-time in world football.
For me, if we had qualified against Sweden [in the 1994 World Cup quarter-final] he would have been the player of the whole tournament.
He was unstoppable, maybe the finest player of the World Cup. He is my best friend and I have respect for him.