IT was always a family affair for Ianis Hagi as he attempted to make his own name and own way in the game as a child protégé and potential superstar.
In recent times, he has relied on those nearest and dearest to him once again to help kick-start his campaign. Now he is closing in on Premiership title glory with Rangers.
There were points earlier in the term where Hagi found the going tough at Ibrox but boss Steven Gerrard never lost faith in the playmaker. Today, that patience is paying huge dividends individually and collectively.
🎥 PRESS CONFERENCE: Ianis Hagi spoke to the media today ahead of Sunday’s match against Hamilton. pic.twitter.com/GPr0006jW6
— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) February 5, 2021
His strike against St Johnstone on Wednesday night was his fifth of the campaign. On Sunday, Hagi – the son of Romanian legend Gheorghe – will return to the scene of his first this season as Rangers face Hamilton in their latest match on the march to title glory.
“I am happy with my numbers up until now,” Hagi said. “I’ve already said that I am always looking to improve and find ways to get better.
“I am still at the beginning of my career. I want to get even better and finish the season stronger.
“When you come into a new environment you want to adapt as quickly as possible. The Covid situation certainly hasn’t helped that.
“I am in my flat, staying in just watching games on TV. As a professional footballer you have to adapt.
READ: Gary McAllister highlights key Ianis Hagi qualities after Rangers win over St Johnstone
“We’ve all had to adapt. Obviously my parents came over when they could and that really helped me for sure.
“Having my loved ones besides me, always having someone to talk to was really nice. At the moment they are back home, they have work to do also.
“They couldn’t stay forever. But it really helps when I have someone over.”
A strike in the win over Lech Poznan in early December was a clue that Hagi was moving through the gears in the Rangers attack but his most influential and important moments would come later in the month.
His terrific performance away to St Johnstone was capped with a fine goal, while he would net the only one of the game in a tight victory against Hibernian on Boxing Day.
It is 12 months since Hagi first arrived at Ibrox from Genk and the progression is clear to see as he continues to improve and impress under Gerrard’s guidance.
Hagi said: “Everybody is there to help find solutions. I am the kind of guy that always likes to ask questions.
“Whenever I have a question I can go to my team-mates, the coaching staff or my family of course.
“They all help me in their own way. But it depends a lot on you as a person, how fast you want to adapt.
“I wanted to get integrated to my new environment and I felt I did that.
“I knew what kind of life it would be as a professional footballer. You train, you come back home, you train again.
READ: Rangers boss Steven Gerrard details expected Accies attack plan ahead of Premiership clash
“I think I have done okay, the last couple of months have obviously been much better.
“There is a lot more to come. Of course, I am happy with my numbers, but there is much more to my game now.
“I think I have improved my defensive work and my overall work-rate for the team.
“I just try to get better at every aspect, it’s not just my numbers from an attacking point of view, it’s my all round game.
“I am still young, I am only 22. I am looking forward to improving every aspect of my game.”
The move to Rangers is the third one that Hagi has made in his fledgling career and he now has a home from home after less successful spells with Fiorentina and Genk either side of a campaign back with Viitorul Constanța, the club formed and owned by his father.
The fact that he is content off the park has allowed him to flourish on it. Within a matter of weeks, he will have his first silverware in Scotland.
Hagi said: “I think everyone here understands what type of player I am and what I can give for the team.
“Since day one, actually even the phone calls I had with Seven Gerrard and Ross Wilson before I came, they understood me as a player.
“If the relationship between manager, sporting director and player is a good one, you give your best. I’m giving my best for Rangers and I can still do better.
“As a manager, you have 20-plus different characters in the dressing room. You have to judge them and challenge them in different ways.
“The manager knows what to expect from me and I’m just trying to deliver every single time.”
Gary McAllister spoke this week of the ‘bravery’ that Hagi shows in the way that he plays and his ability to pick a pass or find the net is one that few in Scotland can match.
READ: Steven Gerrard capitalises on Rangers’ position of strength with January deals
He is unfazed by the physical and manic nature of the game here and operates with a class and composure that allows him to stand out in the Premiership.
“It challenges me a lot as a footballer,” Hagi said. “I have grown a lot since I came here and as a football player you have to adapt.
“I’m still adapting but I feel I’m in a good place right now. I understand the type of football that is played in Scotland.
🎙️ PRESS CONFERENCE: Steven Gerrard spoke to the media today ahead of Sunday’s trip to Hamilton. pic.twitter.com/ZCLkG8Glz6
— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) February 5, 2021
“Honestly, when you come here you expect the league not to be that challenging. But the way teams defend every single week against Rangers, it makes the game so tough.
“You have to find options, you have to create every single time. Honestly, the pressure which comes at the club is really big.
“It’s really tough to succeed at a club like Rangers. I feel I’ve done this so far and I can’t wait for the future in these colours.”