The Scottish Mail on Sunday
Hagi will be quick to discover the alternate realities at Rangers
ANYONE remember Mr Benn? You know, the kids’ show that ran until the 1990s about the bloke who popped into the fancydress shop, picked out a costume, went through the big green door at the back of the fitting room and landed in the kind of adventure you just wouldn’t believe.
They’ve been talking about bringing it back for years. And even though the current subplots involving racism, car-tampering and STDs may be a little unsuitable for the normal target audience, you’d swear you were watching some kind of real-life remake play out in front of your eyes right now.
How else are we to explain what is going on with Ianis Hagi? How else is Ianis Hagi to explain what is going on with Ianis Hagi?
Written off by an underperforming Belgian outfit that no longer give him a game and punted out on loan at the fag-end of January, this 21-year-old shows up at Rangers, pulls on a blue shirt and, all of a sudden, emerges from the analyst’s room as the wonder kid with two cannons for feet, a €100million move just round the corner and tens of thousands of disciples convinced he can turn round a wobbling team and stop history in its tracks single-handedly.
His is now an intoxicating world of myth and legend. Of unpaid facepainters and porn stars offering ruinous tax advice. Of buying a multi-million pound business for a quid and still sending it down the stank. Of Ofcom investigations and Translategate.
Unlike Mr Benn, he also has a special guide book to tell him how this confusing, fantastical realm was created. Into The Bear Pit, it’s called. By a certain Craig Whyte. Available from all good bookstores this Friday — or the 75p bucket in B&M two weeks on Tuesday.
Gosh, as if his court case a couple of years ago wasn’t revelatory enough, what tales Mr Whyte tells of the construction of this parallel universe. Like Westworld. Just more horrific.
Tales of how a manager paid a small fortune in the diddiest of all the diddy leagues couldn’t be sacked because of his cornea-popping severance arrangements, while others hauled moolah out of the place like Bernie Madoff on steroids.
How the words of The Billy Boys were to be rewritten by the director of football, naturally, and why one player’s performance levels dipped — not just on the pitch, by the sound of it — as a result of venereal disease.
Thank goodness it is all so different and orderly nowadays. To the degree that signing a sponsorship deal with a golf course run by the President of the United States in the week of his impeachment trial, the most ill-judged link-up since buying £2m Eros Grezda, barely merits a mention amid the chief executive of Celtic — yes, Celtic — going to war with Sky Sports on behalf of Alfredo Morelos, while everyone inside Ibrox stands with their hands in their pockets looking up at the ceiling.
Given the limitless powers we keep reading about, perhaps Hagi, in between executing ‘Operation Stop The Ten’ on his lonesome, is the man to get to the bottom of the biggest mystery since Carlos Pena got back to his room in one piece after tinkling in a hotel fountain. Allegedly.
No, not why Morelos was running down the street in his flip-flops after finding some geezer — a hitman cutting his brakes, a private detective hired by his pregnant wife, a clubber after a touch too much of the flakka or all and none of the above — lying under his car. Rather, why the words ‘the gesture I made was not racist’, spoken in Spanish in an interview staged on Rangers’ premises, ended up translated into English subtitles on Sky Sports as ‘(Celtic fans) were saying offensive and racist words’.
Rangers aren’t providing answers. Maybe Hagi is the man to ask the questions. Just not in his native Romanian via an interpreter. God knows where that might end up.
The thing is, the only person who could enter from the normal world to offer guidance to Mr Benn was that shopkeeper in the fez. Hagi has numerous others who have been dipping in and out of this particular dimension for years to call upon.
Chairman in the golden days of Viceroy Walter and back to help stop the old place from going bust again this time round, Alastair Johnston gains access from his impressive library at home in Cleveland, triggering a lever on a hidden bookcase by fingering his hand-written manuscript of
Endless Moonbeams by Sir David
Meanwhile, Dave King, who admits he now loses money ‘very, very well’ rather than the very, very bad way Murray lost it for him when he was just a simple old non-executive director who knew nowt about nowt, opens the portal by turning an old bottle of Boekenhoutskloof Cab Sauv in his South African wine cellar.
He’s keeping that bottle for the day his business plan proves everyone wrong — Derek McInnes, Willie Collum, Nicola Sturgeon, the BBC and all the rest of them — and Rangers finally break even by reaching the Champions League.
Naturally, all those years Celtic won the title while they were on ‘The Journey’ won’t count in its ageing process.
Of course, there are also others who never leave the world beyond the green door. Like director Andrew Dickson. He’s been there through it all. From Murray to meltdown to Craig Mather and back again. Mr Indestructible.
Scoosh a double dose of coronavirus right up his hooter and you’d be lucky to see him develop a sniffle. Even then, he’d probably blow it in his EBT certificate and get back down to the serious business of building battleships out of matchsticks with MD Stewart Robertson — or whatever it is they do week to week.
Dickson should get his own Marvel franchise. Him and Hagi combining could be like one of those Superman and Batman mash-ups, superheroes joining together to battle arch-baddie Lex Lawwell.
He certainly saw all the tricks ‘Ol’ Big ‘Ands’ Charles Green used to such good effect back in the day.
Braying about that tie-up with the Dallas Cowboys that the Dallas Cowboys said didn’t exist. Causing his own wee stir on Sky with that unforgettable hospital interview. Oh, yes, and explaining why Craig Whyte had paid £137,000 into the bank account of the mum of director Imran Ahmad, whom he affectionately referred to as his ‘little P*** friend’.
Heavens, you sometimes wonder if there’s still someone in there from Green’s time, pulling these nutty storylines together, writing the scripts. But that would just too crazy, right?
Nah, Hagi’s storyline is its own little piece of magic. Seven starts out of Genk’s 32 fixtures before being farmed out and, still, eulogies abound on how he’s going to be even better than dad Gheorghe.
Steaua Bucharest owner Gigi Becali, whose own past makes you wonder why he never got in on the action at Ibrox, now predicts that will come through a €100m transfer.
Can Ianis stop Nine-In-A-Row before then? Can he end global poverty at the same time? Can he build a new Xanadu in time for our future race of alien rulers arriving behind Halley’s Comet in 2061?
Of course he can. As we know all too well, in the weird, not-always-wonderful world of Rangers, just about anything is possible.
Reality is just something for another day.