We learned a lot of things last night, as Rangers deservedly triumphed over a spirited but flat Galatasaray, and in this piece we’re looking at what we believe is the truth about Romanian star Ianis Hagi.
A lot has been said about his performances, and why he’s not looking quite as good as he did in February.
However, on viewing last night’s win in Govan, we started learning a lot more about Hagi, and why Steven Gerrard likes him so much and prefers him in the side.
Hagi is a lockpick.
The Hagi we had in February stood out in ways he doesn’t normally play, and it did indeed persuade us to shell out the cash.
But the match at Easter Road and the visit of the Turks taught us that Hagi isn’t a Ryan Kent-esque dribbler, or a Jordan Jones-style runner.
No, he lacks the pace to do either of those, so doesn’t actually try – instead he picks out finesse passes, little cute one twos, and his intelligence in doing so is up there with the best you’ll see in the game.
Steven Gerrard uses him to roam around the box, finding the little pockets of space to lay the ball into, and few have benefited from this more recently than Scott Arfield who twice now has been given the ball beautifully in tight spots by the Romanian and has been able to finish clinically from close range.
In short, Hagi is all about picking locks, seeing what others can’t, using space around him well to thread balls acutely through and feed runners.
He’s not quick, he won’t score a tonne of goals, and he’s not strong – but he’s sharp as a razor intellectually and he knows exactly how to interlink with others and where to feed the ball to.
That’s his key, his ticket – his football intelligence.
He’s no slouch of course, and he’s hardly a wimp, but it’s that acute ball use which is why Stevie rates him so highly.
And that he can do it against both a colossal Turkish side as well as the Hibees shows he’s good enough at the top levels to deliver that kind of quality against pretty much anyone.
He’s only 21, and one of the smartest guys in the team.
Imagine how good this kid will become in a few years.