IANIS HAGI will carry Romania’s hopes on his shoulders tonight.
But pressure is nothing new for the son of the country’s greatest ever player.
Ianis Hagi, son of Romania legend Gheorge Hagi, is facing England’s Under-21s[/caption]
Romania’s top scorer Gheorghe Hagi with son Ianis in 2002 aged three[/caption]
Seeing the name ‘Hagi’ on the back of a Romanian shirt when their Under-21s take on England at their Euros in Cesena tonight will bring a smile to the faces – and maybe even tears to the eyes – of fans of a certain vintage.
For throughout the 1990s Gheorghe Hagi was one of the most talented stars on the planet.
After making a name for himself in his homeland behind the Iron Curtain with Steaua Bucharest, he spent two years at Real Madrid.
Then after a spell in Serie A with Brescia he returned to Spain with Barcelona before finishing his playing career at Turkish giants Galatasaray.
But it is perhaps World Cup displays when he endeared himself most to TV viewers in this country.
He helped Romania reach the quarter-finals of USA 94. beating Argentina en route.
Then four years later in France, Romania topped England’s group before going out in the last 16 at a tournament best remembered for Hagi and all his team-mates bleaching their hair blonde.
Nearly two decades after he retired from international football, Hagi, 54, remains Romania’s top scorer with 35 goals in 125 caps.
He is expected to be in Cesena to watch his son Ianis take on the Young Lions in their Group C tonight.
Hagi jnr, who scored in Romania’s 4-1 win over Croatia on Tuesday, plays for Viitorul Constanța – the club his dad owns and manages back home.
Hagi is starring for Romania’s Under-21s as an attacking midfielder[/caption]
Romania’s all-time top scorer Hagi watches on as his son stars at the U21 European Championships[/caption]
Hagi became adored across Europe after starring for Romania at USA 94′ and France 98′[/caption]
Ianis said: “Carrying the surname Hagi on your jersey certainly brings with it a certain pressure.
“But I was born with this pressure, so it’s not something that creates problems for me any longer.”
Humble Hagi snr rarely talks about his son. He said last year: “I am sure that Ianis will have a great career, he’s an ideal No.10.
“I hope that he can become better than I was.”
That would certainly take some doing and he hardly covered himself in glory in a disappointing 18-month stint at Fiorentina before he returned to Viitorul Constanța in January of last year.
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He said: My father was, obviously, a great champion and he is my mentor, but if I had to choose a role model, I would pick an athlete from another sport – Stephen Curry.
“I really like him because he’s managed to make it in the NBA even though nobody believed in him, because he was small, and through his hard work and dedication, he managed to become one of the strongest players in the world.”
Hagi jnr said: “Of course, I talk to him both before and after matches. It’s a normal father-son relationship. I talk not only to him but to my whole family.
Hagi Jnr is an attacking midfielder who says he is mentored by his father[/caption]
Hagi will take on England’s Under-21s in Cesena on Friday night[/caption]
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“He helps me before a match and, as he watches a lot of football, he knows all of our opponents, so he helps me with some tricks of the trade. But for the most part I know what I have to do.”
On England, Haji jnr said: “It will be very tough. We know they also have a very good team but we were expecting that.
“We are at this tournament on merit with all the best teams in Europe and we are ready to fight on an equal footing.”