Ex-Premier League star was spy for secret service and got three years in prison

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    The name's Popescu, Gheorghe Popescu – who the more enthusiastic followers of 1990s Premier League football will remember as the former Tottenham and Romania defender.

    A solitary season at White Hart Lane after starring in the 1994 World Cup saw him make 27 appearances and score three goals. In his home country of Romania. However, he's worked as a spy for the secret service and ended up with a three-year jail sentence.

    Long before his move to English shores, Popescu was making a name for himself at first club Universitatea Craiova. Not only were they paying him, but he was also in the pocket of the Securitate.

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    Popescu acted as an informant on his team-mates who were feared to be a defection risk as they were regularly playing European football in the late 1980s.

    He originally denied helping the secret police, who were under the regime of dictator Nicolae Ceacescu – but he later admitted to signing a document promising to 'defend the national interests’.

    There was little choice but to cooperate for Popescu. He was one of 700,000 informants in the eastern European nation at that time, which equated to 4% of the population.

    Which footballer do you think would make a good spy? Let us know in the comments section.

    Once communism fell in Romania in 1989, Popescu was able to spread his wings, heading to PSV Eindhoven where he spent four years.

    He'd turned down a move to Real Madrid in favour of venturing to the Netherlands, and later joined their rivals Barcelona from Tottenham in a £3million deal in 1995.

    Popescu – who went on to play for Turkish side Galatasaray, Serie A club Lecce and Hannover in the Bundesliga – made 115 appearances for his country, starring at three World Cups and two Euros.

    But having hung up his boots in 2003, he was back in the headlines a decade later when he and seven others were convicted by a Romanian appeals court of money laundering and tax evasion, in connection with the transfer of football players.

    Popescu was sentenced to a jail term of three years and one month but was released after 18 months in November 2015 for good behaviour.

    The 55-year-old has returned to football, though, and is chairman of Liga 1 side Farul Constanta, where his son Nicolas plays.


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