Glasgow Rangers legend Barry Ferguson believes that the Gers can get through to the Champions League group stages with or without Ianis Hagi.
The Lowdown: Tug of war over Hagi
Romania have qualified for the Olympic Games football tournament, which is set to take place in Tokyo later this summer.
The Eastern European nation want the 22-year-old for the tournament, but seeing as it clashes with the opening Champions League qualifiers, Steven Gerrard and co do not want to let him leave Ibrox for the Games in Japan (The Scottish Sun).
The Latest: Ferguson says he should go
In his column for the Daily Record, Ferguson believes that the 55-time Scottish champions should allow the midfielder to represent his country. He wrote:
“It’s a balancing act and it has to be thrashed out face to face between player and manager.
“I’ve put myself in Gerrard’s shoes and he’ll be desperate to have all his players available.
“Kemar Roofe and Glen Kamara are suspended. If the squad was wafer thin, the boss would have to play hardball and tell the player he simply can’t afford to let him go. Not with the prize at stake.
“That might be Gerrard’s decision. If it was up to me? When I look at the squad I actually think they have plenty of cover, even without Roofe and Kamara.
“Joe Aribo can play there, Scott Arfield is going to be back. Fashion Sakala and Nnamdi Ofoborh will be in by then and I’m sure Gerrard will have a few more new faces arriving soon.
“You have to ask – how much does the player want to go? The Olympics is a big thing. Do you want to deny him that opportunity?
“Listen, Hagi is a good player. He has a bit of magic. But he is never a guaranteed starter and I’m not so sure he would start in a qualifier even with Roofe and Kamara missing.
“If he decides to go to the Olympics, it’ll be disappointing.
“But Rangers should still have enough to get through a third-round qualifier.”
The Verdict: Difficult decision
Hagi has enjoyed a solid first full campaign with the Gers. In 48 matches in all competitions, he has managed eight goals and 15 assists (Transfermarkt) – far from a poor return. However, as Ferguson has stated, he has not been a guaranteed starter under Gerrard at any point, being included in the XI just 23 times out of 38 in the triumphant Premiership campaign (Transfermarkt).
Will Hagi play at the Olympics?
Of course, it is unclear as to who the Gers will play in that third qualifying round, but given they are now competing in the Champions League, they will need to find another level. Hagi is one of the few players in the squad who has already had a taste of the tournament, having competed in it with Genk in 2019. He also has the ability to change a game in one moment – remember his memorable salvo against Braga in the Europa League at Ibrox – so would Gerrard really be willing to take the risk of not having him available?
In other news, this Rangers man refuses to rule out an exit from the club.
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