IANIS HAGI always seemed destined for the top and was fast-tracked on the road to stardom as he looked to follow in his father’s footsteps.

When that progress stalled, he quickly took another path. Just months after moving from Viitorul Constanța – the club owned by dad Gheorghe – he was upping sticks once again and calling Rangers home from home.

Hagi had arrived in Belgium with a famous name on his back but also a reputation of his own after a stunning summer at the Under-21 European Championships. His time at the Luminus Arena proved brief and he may already have played his last game for Genk.

His service is somewhat shorter than the one that Thomas Buffel gave as he spent nine years there in between one-season spells with Cercle Brugge and Zulte Waregem.

The former Rangers forward believes Hagi could have made a longer-lasting impression in Belgium if Steven Gerrard hadn’t moved to secure his services and bring him to Ibrox. Genk’s loss has been Rangers’ gain.

"Sometimes football is all about the timing and it depends on what moments the players are in at a certain time," Buffel said. "At Genk, it was difficult for him but sometimes you say a player needs to have a little more patience.

"They spent a lot of money on Théo Bongonda, so he had to play as well, and they have Junya Ito, the Japanese player, that has done very well. The coach has to make a solution and I think Ianis didn’t really want to wait to become the star in the Genk team.

"Maybe he felt the pressure from the Romanian national team that he had to play and there was no time given for him.

“In the past, Genk have had a lot of players that need a little bit of adaption but once you do that you make your name there and you are worth £10million or £15million or £20million.

"Look at guys from Genk like Kalidou Koulibaly, Wilfred Ndidi, they played there and they improved quickly.

"That is Genk, sometimes they have an exceptional year and they benefit, but after it they drop a little bit and have a difficult year. It needs time and this is the same now after a year of being champions.

“It does take time but I think Ianis didn’t want to wait that time and that is why he made the transfer because I didn’t think he had to leave."

The appointment of Hannes Wolf as boss seemed to signal the beginning of the end for Hagi at Genk. As his playing time became more limited, his frustrations increased.

His impact at Ibrox was immediate. He marked his first start against Hibernian with the goal that won the game, while he inspired Gerrard’s side to victory over Braga with a brace and stunning display just a fortnight later.

The 21-year-old will have another chance to shine on the Europa League stage when Rangers face Bayer Leverkusen this week. His form has not gone unnoticed on the continent.

Buffel said: "Not a lot of people knew who Hagi was when he first came into Genk but the scouts for the club spotted him playing in Romania and brought him in.

"He was direct, he had good vision and he scored in his first game so it was very promising.

“But then the team had difficulties with the coach and they started to lose some games. The confidence was down and it was like a snowball from there with a lot of players being under their level.

"The new coach took over and Hagi didn’t really play much. I don’t know what happened there.

“Then he made the transfer to Rangers and people in Belgium were a bit curious that he was suddenly playing well for Rangers when Genk could have used a player that was playing like that because sometimes they lack a little bit of creativity."

The second half of the campaign may not have gone to plan for Rangers as their silverware ambitions have been prematurely halted, but Hagi continues to be a main man for Gerrard.

Rangers have first option to sign the playmaker on a permanent basis in the summer and Buffel believes he will continue to go from strength to strength.

Buffel said: "The first games showed that he wants to receive the ball, he wants to be on the ball and from there he wants to start the play or get an assist or goal.

"It depends on which position you use him and you know if he is good on the ball that other players need to make the runs for him as well. It is important that you get him on the ball and in space and maybe there were times when Genk played that he wasn’t suitable because there were other players there and the team wasn’t in the right harmony for him.

"He went through a difficult period but he moved to Rangers and, all credit to him and the team, he started very well. For him, that would have been a relief to be in a team that could let him get his game back to a bigger level and hopefully he continues to improve."