It looks as though new Rangers boss Steven Gerrard is already looking at some old pals of his to help improve the playing staff at Ibrox. One name who has been mentioned as potential arrival on more than one occasion this week is centre-back Martin Skrtel.
The Slovakian is said to be a target for Rangers, with the Scottish sun suggesting the £4 million target joins Jermain Defoe and Lucas Leiva in an ambitious transfer wishlist from the Liverpool legend.
Obviously, Rangers fans would love to see all three of these Premier League heroes at Ibrox but even just the arrival of Skrtel would be a huge boost. The bullish defender would go a long way toward improving the defence at Rangers – which has been weak most of the current campaign.
Of course, if Skrtel were to arrive, he would be going up against his former boss in Glasgow. In fact, Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers and Skrtel have something of a patchy relationship.
In 2013 the Slovakian was quite suddenly dropped by Liverpool, barely getting a kick in the second half of the season. It looked like he was on his way out and he publicly took aim at Rodgers. As quoted by The Telegraph he stated:
“He gave me some explanation (why he was dropped), but it’s hard to tell if it was the true reason he gave me. I don’t think it was and think there is something else behind it…
“It all happened after our match with Manchester United in the middle of January,” he said. “We lost 2-1 but I think that particularly in the second half we played very well. Moreover, a lot of sources gave me a good rating. But he [Rodgers] told me we had lost the organisation of play in the defensive line and that this would be the reason why I would not play in the following matches.
“I don’t know which fixtures he spoke about because we had kept a clean sheet twice in a row and won both matches.”
Celtic boss Rodgers is certainly not a popular man at Ibrox, so such views will no doubt be welcomed by the Rangers fans.
Problem is, Skrtel changed his tune later on. He fought his way back into the reckoning under Rodgers at Liverpool. The following season was perhaps his best yet in a Liverpool shirt. When asked about Rodgers last year, when Slovakia took on Scotland, he had this to say:
“Brendan is a great manager. I played with him for two to three seasons at Liverpool. I am not surprised he is doing a great job there,” as quoted by The Daily Record (printed edition; 7th October – page 61).
Rangers fans will certainly not disagree that Rodgers has done a great job at their bitter Old Firm rivals.
But if Skrtel arrives the hope will be that the Slovakian puts all past sentiment for his former boss way in the back of his mind.
They want to see the ruthless and brutal Skrtel who first caught the eye in the Premier League at Anfield. If they can get that, then Rangers are on to a winner and Rodgers may wish he was not having so many Glasgow reunions.
Three things learnt from Rangers’ qualification over Maribor: Morelos hasn’t learned
Rangers only needed a 0-0 draw to see out a 3-1 first leg win and secure qualification for the Europa League’s final qualifying round by beating Maribor in Slovenia.
A 91st minute penalty was the closest either team came to breaking the deadlock on the night with the hosts proving to be the more dominant of the two teams, but they failed to turn their chances and possession into goals.
Here’s what can be learned from the game…
McGregor is the quality of goalkeeper Rangers need
Having made six saves, including an injury time penalty from Marcos Tavares, Alan McGregor has continued to show that he is the kind of goalkeeper that the team need having failed to ever really replace him.
Now being asked to perform at a higher level than ever before to push the team into European football, the 36-year-old is showing that he has what it takes after having been with Hull in the second tier.
Gerrard is going for the Mourinho style of media management
Steven Gerrard remains unbeaten in his role as a manager at senior level, yet many are still beginning to learn what to expect from the former Liverpool captain. Perhaps surprisingly, his attitude when addressing the press has drawn comparisons to Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho, who he has never hidden his admiration for.
“They had confidence, they had ego, and they are devastated. They had no respect for us, but my players have proved over two legs we are better than Maribor, and that gives me great confidence going forward.”
The former England man’s ‘us against the world’ attitude was previously evident following claims of refereeing conspiracies against Aberdeen. He’s made it clear that he is no novice learning his trade, but is willing to come out fighting.
Morelos hasn’t learned
Despite having been sent off against Aberdeen, only for the decision to later be overturned, for lashing out, Alfredo Morelos was at it again against Maribor. His temperament got the better of him and, in a heated affair, he was involved in numerous altercations.
Few doubt his potential and his ability, but concerns over his discipline remain. With Bordeaux having made a £3.75 million bid, which was instantly rejected according to BBC Sport, Rangers may well be tempted to cash in if he can’t prove that he can behave himself and avoid referees having to take action.
Rangers fans will be pleased Dynamo Kiev deal collapsed for Borna Barisic last summer
Rangers manager Steven Gerrard brought Borna Barisic to Ibrox this summer and he’s already impressed in Glasgow.
It is fair to say that Rangers have been impressed with the early signs from Croatian newbie Borna Barisic. The £2.2 million signing from Osijek impressed in the 2-0 win over St Mirren at the weekend, playing 62 minutes on his debut.
Rangers fans know what the left-back is capable of. They faced him in the Europa League qualifiers earlier this season. The Croatian international looks like being a future star for Rangers and the Ibrox faithful will hope he continues to improve under Steven Gerrard.
They will also be thankful that a transfer deal that looked all set and done for last summer never went through.
“I had agreed everything with Dynamo Kiev and then I do not know what happened…
“In the end Kiev went to (Josip) Pivaric, a great guy, who is certainly not guilty, but I had missed the transfer, everything was clear, someone had undermined it.”
The new Glasgow hero nearly headed to Kiev in the summer of 2017. As reported by Sportske Jutarnji, the player had agreed to join Dynamo Kiev last August.
A deal looked as good as done for the player. However, at the last minute, it fell apart. Instead, Kiev signed his Croatian compatriot Josip Pivaric.
Rangers fans will no doubt be pleased this deal fell apart. As a result, they have a top left-back at Ibrox who could go on to be a real star for Gerrard’s team.
Whoever managed to break up the Barisic to Kiev deal, deserves a big thank you from the Ibrox faithful.
Three things Rangers fans learnt after victory over St. Mirren: Discipline concerns
Steven Gerrard picked up his first league win as Rangers boss as the team in blue overcame newly promoted St. Mirren. Alfredo Morelos and Conor Goldson raced the team into an early lead with a promising start.
Then, a sending off for a rash challenge from Ross McCrorie gave the visitors hope though it was not enough for them to work their way back into the game as they were forced to settle for defeat.
Here’s what we can take from the game:
Discipline is a concern
Two SPL games and two red cards is not the start that Steven Gerrard would have wanted. A hot head in his younger days as a player, he knows all about that aspect of the game but will be keen to stamp it out from his Rangers side as quickly as possible.
“I thought the officials were really, really good today. They got the decision spot-on and we’ve got no complaints. I’ve spoken to the team and praised them for the result. But I’ve also spoken about discipline and composure out there. It’s difficult enough with 11 men. We’re picking up too many red and yellow cards for my liking. But we’ll learn, grow and keep going.”
Yet again the dismissal came in the first half, though fortunately for Ross McCrorie his team had already built up a two goal lead. Having just returned to the team, he could live to regret making such a rash mistake.
Overturning Alfredo Morelos’ ban was crucial
He could have been watching from the stands but instead, just inside the quarter of an hour mark, his high press and composed finish showed just why Rangers need him fit and firing if they are to push Celtic for the title this season.
Whereas last week showed the worst of his game, Morelos looked more at home at Ibrox and the pent up frustration on show last weekend was no longer visible. Now, he has to cut it out of his game completely.
Gerrard’s project remains a work in progress
It can be hard to judge a team based on performances with ten men, particularly two weeks in a row, but there are signs of progress already. There can be no denying that Rangers are not yet the finished package but it is beginning to come together for Gerrard.
Conor Goldson can be pleased with his goal and the side included several other new arrivals this summer including the likes of Borna Barisic, Jon Flanagan, Allan McGregor and young loanees Ryan Kent and Ovie Ejaria. It will take them some time to adapt.
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