Rangers signing Ianis Hagi wants to make a name for himself

In football, the skills of the father can too hastily be expected to be passed on to the son. Precisely why the arrival on loan to Rangers of 21-year-old Ianis Hagi – who just 
happens to be the offspring of the great Gheorghi Hagi – came with a note of caution from Ibrox manager Steven Gerrard.

Ianis Hagi is following in big footsteps after the iconic career his father Gheorghi enjoyed, but he is happy to be at Rangers. Picture: SNS.
Ianis Hagi is following in big footsteps after the iconic career his father Gheorghi enjoyed, but he is happy to be at Rangers. Picture: SNS.

The former England captain maintained his club had recruited “one of the best talents of his age in Europe” on a temporary deal from Genk that both club and player want to make permanent in the summer. Gerrard, too, was happy to gush about the Romanian under-21s’ dad getting him “off his couch” during the 1994 World Cup. But he also stressed such pedigree should not be expected immediately from a young player who has made only one start at club level since mid-October for a side lying sixth in the Belgian top flight – a team he only joined in the summer but now patently doesn’t want to be with.

“I think 1994 was when he [Gheorghi Hagi] was at his peak,” said the Rangers manager. “But this is a guy who represented Real Madrid, Barcelona, Galatasaray, an absolute legend in his homeland, a God in his homeland. A technician of the game who had moments in the game that were ‘wow’.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

“But you have to respect and understand that this kid is his own man. He wants to make a name for himself and he is more than capable of making
a huge name for himself.

“I understand the comparisons because of the name but this is a different human being. You have to give the kid the chance to go and perform and earn the right to be a top player at Rangers himself.”

Gerrard said he will need time to do that, though he will be in the squad for this afternoon’s hosting of Aberdeen. An attacker, the 39-year-old believes Hagi can offer Rangers a different dimension in the final third courtesy of his ability to play defence-splitting passes of the short, medium and long range variety, and shooting from distance – an element Gerrard feels has been lacking in his team.

The youngster, for his part, wants to make good on strengths his new manager sees in him, and which he saw him produce in the 2019 Under-21 Uefa Championship last summer. Hagi was a pivotal performer in Romania’s run to the semi-finals. And Gerrard was alerted to his talents when he scored as a 4-1 thumping was secured over a Croatia side that featured new team-mate Nikola Katic.

“I just like always to create for my team-mates and the strikers and obviously to play through balls,” said the Romanian. “I guess my vision is 
really good but I don’t really like to talk a lot. I just like to play my football and you’ll see.

“I’m part of a really huge club so I’m looking forward to playing here as long as I can and trying to help the club with my football.”

Hagi wasn’t keen to reflect on the frustrations he encountered attempting to do that for Genk this season, which followed a £7 million move from home-country club Viitorul Constanța, which is owned by his father and where he started out before an unrewarding spell at Fiorentina.

“Frustrating is too tough a word,” said the 21-year-old. “I just see this as a big opportunity for me so I had to take this chance. I know where I am. I know this is a huge club. I’m looking forward to playing my best football and giving
my best here. I don’t really like to talk about the past. I’m a young guy. I have all my career in front of me. I just look at my present and try to build my future.”

Gerrard’s squad-building suffered a setback with the injury to Jermaine Defoe in the midweek 2-0 win over Ross County he set up with the opener.

The 37-year-old has a calf injury that could potentially keep him out until the international break in late March. Offsetting that blow is the return of James Tavernier following his appendix procedure that has sidelined him since the winter break. Gerrard believes the Aberdeen encounter will be too soon for him to start, but he has been named in the squad, as is fit-again Greg Stewart.