Rangers legend Barry Ferguson has warned Steven Gerrand and his Ibrox stars they need to pre mentally and physically ready for the Champions League qualifiers or risk an “almighty fall” – but the newly-appointed Alloa boss insists the Light Blues don’t need Ianis Hagi to make it through to the Playoff.
The Romanian star has been named in his country’s side for this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, with Hagi keen to go, but Rangers aren’t keen on letting their number 7 travel to Tokyo and miss the first qualifiers.
With Kemar Roofe and Glen Kamara suspended, the Light Blues are already missing some key figures for their return to the Champions League and Ferguson believes the summer arrival of the likes of Nnamdi Ofoborh and Fashio Sakala should helps see Rangers through.
“If you are not mentally and physically prepared for it, then you are in for an almighty fall. Plain and simple. Risks should be avoided at all costs,” Ferguson wrote in his Daily Record column.
“And with Rangers set to return to the Champions League qualifiers for the first time in a decade, Steven Gerrard has a major headache over what to do about Ianis Hagi. The Romanian ace wants to miss the first qualifier in August to play at the Olympics.
“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.”
What could Hagi miss for Rangers if he goes to the Olympics?
The Olympics’ football competition takes place from July 21 to August 7 with Romania facing Honduras, South Korea and New Zealand in the group stages.
With the final game of the groups on July 28 for Romania, that would only leave five days between them facing New Zealand and Rangers’ first Champions League fixture.
With the return leg on August 10, Hagi could be available if Romania are knocked out in the groups – otherwise, it looks as though he’ll miss both Third Qualifying Round ties for Rangers if he goes to the Olympics.