Ianis Hagi is known to be one of the most important talents in Romanian football currently. His background makes sure that he could be more important than many other talents in European football. The son of Romanian legend Gheorghe Hagi, Ianis still has a long way to go. And to scale that path ahead of him, he might have taken the right decision to join Rangers.
The move came out of nowhere. The Gers seemed silent in the market for a vast majority of the January transfer window. All of a sudden- before anyone else knew, he was flying into Glasgow to undergo his medical with about a day left for the window to slam shut. It was like Gerrard himself had found a phone tracker free online and new exactly where Hagi was. It took many by surprise, but the manner in which he develops should not be a surprise at all.
That isn’t to say that Belgium is a bad place for his development. The country is now seeing an exodus of players head to the Premier League, with the likes of Marvellous Nakamba, Moussa Djenepo and Mbwana Ally Samatta being latest examples. But the Premiership has become a breeding ground for talents too.
There are more examples of that from across Glasgow at Celtic. But Hagi could be in the right place.
The attacking midfielder had a tally of three goals and four assists in 20 games in all competitions for Genk this season. All of these goal contributions came in the Belgian league, with two goals and one assist coming against Sint-Truiden in a single game.
Hagi was released by prominent Serie A side Fiorentina at a young age. He was at Viitorul Constanța in the 2018-19 season, impressing for them. He contributed to 22 goals in 39 games in all competitions leading to a move to one of Belgium’s most prominent feeder clubs in Genk.
But his numbers from last season at Genk show that the 21-year-0ld still needs more development to play for a European giant. He did score twice in the Under-21s Euros for the Romanian side, but he needs to step up a gear.
Steven Gerrard knows that and his recent comments prove that. The Liverpool legend said:
“You have to give the kid a chance to perform and earn the right to be a top player at Rangers himself. He is one of the best talents of his age in Europe.”
The fact that Hagi made an appearance under Gerrard in the Gers’ disappointing 0-0 draw against Aberdeen is a sign. He played centrally, coming on for Scott Arfield to play the last 13 minutes. Playing centrally is his best position, as evident from his performances in Romania in the 2018-19 campaign.
Gerrard’s certainty about playing a 4-3-3 on a regular basis will be of some help to Hagi too. With Ryan Jack, Glen Kamara and Arfield the three reliable options for getting goals and providing service to Jermain Defoe and Alfredo Morelos, Hagi adds depth to the side. With the Europa League campaign far from over, the team needs that depth to compete on all fronts.
They’re seven points off Neil Lennon’s Celtic and they can’t forget about the Premiership at all either. At 21, Hagi will a well-travelled player who will develop under-the-radar. That will take some pressure off the shoulders of a player who has the burden of living up to expectations.