"I don't feel pressure because of the name, I was raised with pressure." Introducing Gheorghe Hagi's son Ianis, only 16 but already captain of his father's team Viitorul Constanţa.
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The name could be considered a boon or a burden – one thing is for certain, it is a sizeable responsibility for Ianis Hagi, still a month away from his 17th birthday. Son of Romanian legend Gheorghe, Ianis has been subject to intense scrutiny for much of his fledgling career, during which time he has captained international youth sides and is already skipper of Viitorul Constanţa, the club coached by his father who are second in the Romanian First Division.
Name: Ianis Hagi
Club: Viitorul (on loan from Fiorentina)
Debut: 5 December 2014 v Botoșani (Romanian First Division)
Position: attacking midfielder
Date of birth: 22 October 1998
Preferred foot: both
They say ...
"Ianis has a bright future in Italy. He has the necessary talent and skill to become a big player. If he works hard he will have a nice career. Compared to me, Ianis has the advantage of playing with both feet while I mostly used my left. I'm very proud of him."
"Gică Hagi has to take care of his son, because Ianis has the skill and potential to become a big player. I wouldn't have given him the captain's armband, but it is very good that Ianis has the chance to play in the top flight."
Former Romania head coach Victor Pițurcă
"Ianis has all the qualities to succeed at Fiorentina. They are the best club for him to improve and his father did the right thing in this regard. Ianis gets better game by game, but Serie A is something different altogether and now it's up to him."
Former Romanian international and Fiorentina striker Adrian Mutu
Ianis was born in Istanbul while his father was a player at Galatasaray. He started to play football in Bucharest and joined the Gheorghe Hagi Academy in Ovidiu in 2009. He has since been leader of his country at all age groups and, in 2014, agreed a move to Tuscany. He remains contracted to the Viola but is on loan at Viitorul until the end of the season.
Playing style ...
It is not yet clear which foot is Ianis's strongest – a particularly impressive talent for one so young. He plays similarly to his father, in a roaming No10 role. "My father's legacy to me is his overall game vision," said Ianis. "Maybe I have a better decisive pass."
Shades of ...
His father, of course, but such comparisons are not always welcome. "I am Ianis and want to stay Ianis," he said. "He had his skills and I have mine. He had more speed and looked at scoring goals, while I like giving passes and providing assists. I love to score, of course, but I play more for the team. Anyway, I have to develop and I will have to play for the senior national team and for a big European club in no more than five years' time."
Eureka moment …
Captaining Viitorul for the first time, in August, is surely the highest point of a short career already full of achievement. "I am very used to the captain's armband because I have been captain for all the teams I've played for, at the academy and for youth national teams. Gheorghe added: "I spoke to the older players and they agreed. I think I've done the right thing, even if it seems a bit risky. We have to be very careful how we raise him."
Best-case scenario ...
It is hoped that Hagi and his peers will be at the heart of the team competing to qualify for UEFA EURO 2020, some of which will be staged on home soil. Media focus has, understandably, been largely on him, with his U17 contemporaries collectively described as 'Hagi's team'. Plenty of pressure for a young man who nevertheless manages to remain grounded.
He says ...
"When I was a little boy I did not know what the name Hagi meant to Romania and Turkey, but I have since realised. I am well aware of how much work he put in to reach the highest level. Now he is my coach and I have to listen to him. I don't feel pressure because of the name; I was raised with pressure. My father is an idol for me and I hope to follow in his footsteps.
"I have achieved things I didn't expect to have done by this age, things I have dreamt about. I am satisfied but of course this is not the end of the road. I always want to improve, I want to play for my country and at the highest level. Football is my life."