U21 European Championship: Ianis Hagi meets Germany in the semi-final with Romania
Germany U21 international Nadiem Amiri was asked before the European Championship semi-final after Romania. Before the tournament, he did not know a single player, Amiri said, now he knows some. One player in particular impressed him: "Ianis Hagi, the son of the great Gheorge Hagi."
When Amiri was born in October 1996, Gheorge Hagi had turned 31 and a few months earlier from Real Madrid to Galatasaray. Two years later, Ianis Hagi was born, today playmaker of the Romanian U21 and just on the way to becoming a star, just as his father was.
There are photos showing the little Ianis, in full Galatasaray costume and next to a trophy that is almost as big as him. Gheorge Hagi had just won the Uefa Cup with the Istanbulers, he wears a white suit, points with one hand to himself. With the other arm he holds his son.
Gheorge Hagi is still a hero in Romania, he is the best footballer this country has ever had. When the U21 played a few days ago in this European Championship in Cesena and won 4-2 against England, of course, he was there. There is a video showing how he made his way from the stadium to the parking lot, past ecstatic fans. They shouted "Hagi !, Hagi !, Hagi!", Some took pictures and someone kissed the shoulder of the former playmaker as well. Hagi senior barely advanced.
England's nightmare was number ten
His son, however, had been in the game against the English by no one to stop. He had scored one goal with a fine shot from 20 meters, it was the 2: 1 in the 85th minute. He had played many great passes and had appeared all over the field, for England's defense was Romania's playmaker with number ten a nightmare.
Anyway, it was not difficult to come to a similar conclusion this evening as Stefan Kuntz, the coach of the German U21. When asked before the semifinals whether to pay special attention to Hagi Junior, he said: "He really is an exceptionally good player, no question."
Romania is not just Hagi
But Kuntz also said he does not think it's very clever to focus on a single player. Because then there would be rooms for everyone else, that would not be helpful. And there are really other great footballers, you can easily forget that with all the commotion around the young Hagi.
Goalkeeper Ionut Radu plays in Genoa in Serie A and is often praised for his game, and attacker George Puscas had great scenes in the finals. Puscas has also played for the senior team, where he has scored four goals in eight games.
Compare with Dad - and with Zidane
And yet, these days Ianis Hagi, 20, is a much-watched A-national player. As a teenager, he played in the Academia Hagi, his father's football school. Later, Gheorge Hagi founded FC Viitorul, since 2012 the club plays in Romania's first league, since 2014, the former world star is also still coach. Ianis Hagi was 16 when he debuted there, and in the same year he was made captain by dad.
This is what Gheorge Hagi told the magazine "11Freunde" in an interview. One reads wonderful sentences ("The number ten does not work, she makes the difference"), but one also learns that Hagi has noted parallels between himself and his son, but also differences. Compared to him earlier, Ianis Hagi was "both-footed, taller and slimmer." Actually, the proud dad had observed: "He does not play like Gheorghe Hagi, more like Zinédine Zidane."
Hagi had problems in Florence
Of course these are nice words, but whether Ianis Hagi will eventually even be able to cope with this comparison must be proved. At 17, he had moved to Florence, but came there in one and a half years only on two missions. Too little for a hagi, so he returned to dad, back to Romania. It is quite possible that Ianis Hagi will move to a bigger league after this European Championship. There was no shortage of interested people, as it has been read throughout the last few days. Galatasaray, the club where his father finished his career, should also be included, including Ajax Amsterdam.
But first of all is the European Championship, the semi-final against Germany in Bologna. Gheorge Hagi will then be back in the stadium, probably this time he will again have great difficulties to make his way through the audience. In Germany, they should now hope that there is no parallelism of events, that Ianis Hagi is not as against England by anyone to stop. Otherwise, the English nightmare with the number ten could also become German.