Gheorghe Hagi is without question the greatest Romanian footballer of all time. Things have moved on now though with his son tipped to have a very bright future.
Here we look at whether Ianis Hagi will live up to his father’s name.
How has Ianis Hagi fared so far?
Hagi junior started his career with Steaua Bucharest before moving into the academy set up by his dad – the Gheorghe Haji Academy.
He spent five years there establishing himself in the Romanian youth system along the way before making his senior breakthrough at the age of 16 with Viitorul Constanta. The youngsters potential was blatant and it earned him a £2m move to Fiorentina but he managed just a paltry 48 minutes of action for the club; a return to Constanta followed.
Evidently, the tough love he faced in Italy served him well. He returned to his homeland a much better player and in 14 appearances weighed in with six goals and four assists before turning up the heat the following season. In 2018/19 he averaged a goal involvement every 156 minutes.
He impressed in all competitions including the Europa League qualifying campaign; 14 goals and eight assists from 39 appearances that season saw him become one of the teams’ key players.
For the club, that created a problem in that it put Hagi back on the radar of other clubs. He duly left for Belgian side Genk. The Jupiler Pro side were in the Champions League, which gave the player his first taste of football at that level in the shape of five appearances.
He only played the full 90 minutes once in Europe’s elite competition, but it was Genk’s best showing of the season as they held Napoli to a goalless draw. On the domestic front, Hagi was impressing again. Three goals and four assists from 14 matches reads pretty well but when you look at the time spent on the grass it becomes all the better; he was averaging a direct goal contribution every 82 minutes!
Settling in Scotland
After that sparkling six months with Genk, Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers made a move to bring Hagi to the United Kingdom. Initially, the deal was a loan. Hagi only made seven appearances in the SPL with the coronavirus pandemic hardly lending itself to showcasing his talents, however, two goals and an assist in four Europa League games for Steven Gerrard’s men combined with flashes of brilliance saw the move become permanent. The fee involved was in excess of £3m.
Back in Romania Hagi is watched through a “magnifying glass”, which has led to some harsh criticism but the wider football world are intrigued by what they’re seeing from the now 22-year-old. The betting odds have Rangers as huge favourites to lift their first league title in 10 years, which is hardly a surprise given they’re 19 points clear at the top.
Opposite to the Kentucky Derby Odds 2021 by TwinSpires that list lots of contenders, the Scottish Football League is normally decided only between 2 teams: Celtic and Rangers. Celtic has been winning the league for the past 9 year straight, but it seems that 2021 will finally be the year when their streak ends and their Old Firm rivals clinch the title.
The form of Gerrard’s men has seen Hagi’s involvement fluctuate with spells both in and out of the starting XI. Look beyond the appearances though and you’ll find the two-footed midfielder is making quite the impression. So far this season he’s managed three league goals and eight assists. That’s a more than respectable return from a little over 1,000 minutes of gameplay.
What does the future hold?
Well, that depends. A look at recent news stories will tell you that RB Leipzig are interested in bringing Hagi to the Bundesliga but, in truth, that doesn’t feel likely to happen; certainly not right now. That said, with Hagi currently in glorious form and with Rangers in the Europa League knockout rounds the next few months could be huge for him. If he can produce the goods consistently between now and May then a step up may well be on the cards.
Eventually, Hagi will most certainly go on to play at the top level – both in terms of competing in Europe’s big five leagues and plying his trade in the Champions League on a regular basis – but he’ll have to go someway to get near his dad’s legacy.