Steph Curry is my role model, says football legend Gheorghe Hagi's son Ianis

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The 18-year-old Fiorentina starlet admits his famous father has been a big influence on him, but wants to follow the example of the basketball hero


EXCLUSIVE

In football, as in life, having a famous father can be both a help and a hindrance. The family name can open doors but also invite unfavourable comparisons. For every Paolo Maldini, there is a Jordi Cruyff.

Ianis Hagi, though, insists that he has long got used to the burden of being the son of the great Gheorghe, the Romanian No.10 who was known as 'The Maradona of the Carpathians'.

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"Carrying the surname Hagi on your jersey certainly brings with it a certain pressure," the 18-year-old Ianis admits in an exclusive interview with Goal .

"But I was born with this pressure, so it's not something that creates problems for me any longer."

Indeed, Ianis is presently carving out quite a reputation for himself, as underlined by the fact that he has made the NxGn, Goal's list of the top 50 young players in the world.

Born in Istanbul during Gheorge's spell at Galatasaray, Ianis' career has always been intertwined with that of his father, who has never been shy about talking up his son's potential.

"I am sure that Ianis will have a great career," the 1994 World Cup star told Goal last year. "He's an ideal No.10. I hope that he can become better than I was."

Gheorghe Hagi Ianis PS

Hardly surprising, then, that Ianis was given a place in the Gheorghe Hagi Academy at the age of 10 or that it was his father who handed him his professional debut at Viitorul in December, 2014 when he was still only 16.

To say that Ianis' success is solely down to Gheorghe would be wrong, though, since it wasn't nepotism that persuaded Fiorentina to pay €2 million for his services last summer.

Furthermore, Ianis is well aware that having the genes and support of his father will only get him so far. He knows how tough it will be for him to convince the doubters that he has more about him than just a famous father.

Indeed, it is telling that he takes most inspiration not from his father's stellar career, which took in spells at both Real Madrid and Barcelona, but that of a modern-day basketball superstar.

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"My father was, obviously, a great champion and he is my mentor," Ianis explains. "But if I had to choose a role model, I would pick an athlete from another sport: Stephen Curry.

"I really like him because he's managed to make it in the NBA even though nobody believed in him, because he was small, and through his hard work and dedication, he managed to become one of the strongest players in the world.

"His story is an example of how working hard one can achieve extraordinary results and this is a valuable lesson in both sport and life."

Ianis certainly has a studious approach to his career, revealing that he did his homework on Fiorentina before deciding to join the Viola.

"I chose Fiorentina because it's a big club and because Florence is an extraordinary city," he explains.

"I have always admired this club because they've always worked well with youngsters, as you can see today with [Federico] Chiesa and [Federico] Bernardeschi, or in the recent past with [Stevan] Jovetic, [Stefan] Savic and many others.

"I am very happy here and I'm working hard in order to grow from a physical point of view.

"I am very lucky to be able to train on a daily basis with so many great champions here at Fiorentina. Every week I train with great effort and I will certainly have my chances."

Ianis Hagi

There are those that believe Ianis is destined to become the next great talent to wear the No.10 jersey at Fiorentina, following in the footsteps of the likes of Giancarlo Antognoni, Rui Costa and his compatriot Adrian Mutu.

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Given he's only made one Serie A appearance to date, against Cagliari in October, Ianis is not getting ahead of himself. However, just like Curry, he is dreaming big and believes that no matter what anyone else says, he has the ability to make a name for himself in Serie A.

"At the moment, the No.10 jersey at Fiorentina is Bernardeschi's," he points out. "But knowing that this shirt was worn by these extraordinary footballers motivates me to give my best for this club, hoping to one day become Fiorentina's next No.10."

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