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Gheorghe Hagi praises Steven Gerrard for his son’s rapid rise at Rangers

© Alan Harvey / SNS GroupIanis Hagi celebrates his winning goal against Braga in the Europa League
Ianis Hagi celebrates his winning goal against Braga in the Europa League

Gheorghe Hagi has heaped praise on Steven Gerrard for getting the best out of his son, Ianis.

The Romanian youngster has quickly become a huge favourite with the Rangers fans, first with his winner against Hibs in the Premiership, then his double that sealed an unlikely comeback against Braga in the Europa League.

Hagi Senior was at Ibrox to witness the latter, and on his return to Bucharest, he gave his insight into why he thinks his boy has hit the ground running in Scotland.

He said: “From the beginning, Steven Gerrard made it very clear he wanted Ianis. He was convinced of his quality.

“The Rangers manager is of great importance in Ianis’ development.

“He knows exactly how to get the best out of him. He knows how to talk to him, and he knows how to integrate him into the group.

“Rangers have a very good group of players and supporters. That’s why I said they are an ideal club for him.

“For his mentality and his future growth, this is perfect for Ianis.

“He’s just turned 21, and you can see the confidence growing in him. That’s come from the Rangers manager.

“Rangers are a very big club. They are desperate to get back to where they were, so there’s a lot of motivation.

“Ianis knows that, and buys into it.

“He also knows he can’t rely on what he did before. It’s about what he does now.

“It was bad weather in Scotland on Thursday night, but today’s footballer must adapt to that and that’s what Ianis did.

“A good player will find a way to succeed on any pitch, and they won’t use the conditions as an excuse.

“On Thursday, I saw all the seasons in one day in Glasgow. There was winter, summer, snow, rain, wind, sun. And that was all within an hour!

“But you know what? It was cold but Ianis got on with it.

“I feel he is getting better every day. At Rangers he is now playing in a top European competition and that will make him better.

“Young players need to experience this.

“I watched a great game with extraordinary supporters. It was a fantastic evening.

“I found it incredible the way Rangers fans supported and backed their team.

“There’s no doubt it gave the Rangers players a massive lift and gave them a huge shot of pure adrenaline.

“In my view, that was the secret of Rangers’ success. Their fans pushed the players to win.”

And Hagi refused to compare himself with his son after he was shown a remarkably similar free-kick in his career.

In the 1986 European Super Cup Final in Monaco, Hagi flighted a free-kick from almost exactly the same position as Hagi Junior hit his winner on Thursday at Ibrox.

It also took a deflection on its way in.

His goal secured a 1-0 win against Dynamo Kiev and saw Steaua Bucharest win the trophy for the only time in their history.

But Hagi said: “Leave me alone!

“Stop making these comparisons because I have no answers to these things.

“I’ve already said one of the proudest moments in my life was during a Romanian Under-21s game with Spain, and a young boy asked me for my autograph because I was Ianis’ dad.

“He had no idea who I was.

“It’s not about me any more. I’m second in importance now. I was a footballer, it’s true. Now Ianis is, and I’m not.

“Ianis is a player with great creativity in both feet. That’s his greatest quality.

“If he continues to improve, he can have a great career.”