Rangers manager Michael Beale opens up on Hagi European squad axe on eve of crucial Champions League play-off
Asked if the best performances of his tenure would likely be required to progress, Beale replied in the affirmative. “You want to pit yourself against the best and our fans want to see the big nights here in Europe, so let’s go hell for leather for that,” he stressed.
“If it’s not [the Champions League] then we’ve got the Europa (League) again. But at this moment in time our full focus is on trying to qualify of course.”
Rangers will navigate this task without Hagi, who had expressed his disquiet at his lack of match action following a cameo in Saturday’s Viaplay Cup win over Morton.
“There’s no issue with Ianis,” claimed Beale. “As he put it in his own words, he’s very happy when he’s playing football. He’s missed a year and he wants to play week in, week out so it may be that between now and the end of the window we look at that.
“Me and Ianis spoke after three or four days of pre-season," he added. "He missed a year and I brought Ianis back into the team against Partick Thistle last year very early.
“It was clear at that moment that he wasn’t ready,” he continued. “Over the summer he has worked very hard to be fit. I wouldn’t say he is at optimal fitness right now and I think the conversation with us has always been very honest.
“He is a player I have a strong relationship with on a personal level. His desire is that he wants to be a main starter and start every game and no one has that guarantee here at Rangers.”
At least there’s no chance of Hagi returning to haunt Rangers – not yet at least. But there is someone who Beale will be especially wary of against PSV. As so often happens, a newly departed player has been given an early opportunity to return to his former side. So early, indeed, that if Malik Tillman, who spent last season on loan at Ibrox from Bayern Munich, is called upon tomorrow it will represent his competitive debut.
He has yet to feature for his new club, where, much to Rangers’ frustration, he has agreed to spend a further season on loan. The Ibrox club had hoped he would return to Glasgow, perhaps on a permanent deal.
“The agreement was in place before I came [to the club] in terms of how it was structured,” explained Beale. “We stuck to our side of the agreement. Quite frustratingly for us, Bayern Munich stuck to theirs and did the buyback they had. But Malik knows that outside of the games against Rangers he has our full support.
“He was fantastic for us. I spoke to him a lot over the summer. He’s just back from a long-term injury but I think it’s a good move for him.”
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