Hagi and Galatasaray. The prodigal returns

With Frank Rijkaard linked to the Liverpool job, it's worth noting that he really pulled up no trees with Galatasaray.  The Dutchmans replacement at Istanbul, is former coach Gheorghe Hagi.  IBWM's Romanian correspondent Radu Baicu feels this could go well.

Linked with all the big guns from Romania that were looking for a top coach at one point or another, Gheorghe Hagi stated recently that he will refuse any offers that come to him after the beginning of a season, as he’d like to avoid previous mistakes in his coaching career. In the last week, he made an exception for Galatasaray Istanbul, one of the three teams that he likes to consider “home”, alongside Steaua Bucharest and the national team, where Hagi would love to get a second chance to prove himself.

In spite of Galatasaray’s poor start to the season and the pressure he will have to withstand in his first year, I think it’s a good decision.  Hagi had to return to coaching sooner rather than later, and waiting for the right project to come along has kept him on the sidelines a bit too much. He never walked away from football, though, and in the past two years, he managed to build an excellent football academy, which is now represented in the Romanian second division, hosts tournaments involving top clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid, and gathers most of the talented kids who are hoping to follow in his footsteps.

Hagi always left me with the impression that he needs the two things almost impossible to find in modern football, especially at top clubs; time and patience from the board. The fans have it – they have had it in every place he’s worked until now – not just because they still see in him the perfect number 10, but also because every team trained by him was instructed to attack, to build, to impose its style.  From the stands, you could see the invisible paths; understand Hagi’s ideas for breaking down the opposition. Way too often, though, he was affected by his players’ lack of quality, the young coach being criticized for asking his pupils to work on their technique and always try to improve their skills!

Unfortunately, for the legendary player, his sound tactical work was not reflected in the standings, so he always left before he managed to make a team play the way he wanted, forced by the obtuse guys who wanted results and thought that if they had Hagi on the bench, they would see his magic on the pitch. They ignored his good work, his guts to field very young players like Emre (Galatasaray), Torje and Latovlevici (Timisoara) or Bicfalvi (Steaua), putting into jeopardy his own position by bringing in new blood from the youth setup and trying to build a future for the club and, maybe, for himself. So far, only the clubs have benefitted.

To get the latest updates on Romanian football, please visit Radu’s top notch blog, Scouting Romania.