Gio van Bronckhorst is about to find out how much hard work awaits him this summer.
The Rangers manager will return to his Auchenhowie HQ this morning and the first thing on his to-do list should be to arrange meetings with three key players and ask director of football Ross Wilson to take a chair at the same time. By allowing Ryan Kent, Joe Aribo and Alfredo Morelos into the final year of their contracts, Wilson put Van Bronckhorst in an almost impossible position at the start of his first full season in charge.
Somehow, the Dutchman has to persuade this trio to put pen to paper on extensions at the eleventh hour. Or he must start preparing to live without them. And then he’ll have to cross his fingers that Wilson isn’t caught with his pants down again when it comes to the club’s bidding in this summer’s transfer market. Because right now it’s getting harder and harder to imagine how Van Bronckhorst could be robbed of so much talent all of a sudden and come out the other side of the window with his starting XI not significantly weaker than he was when he first found it. Losing one would be a huge blow.
But while all three are set to leave, Van Bronckhorst and Wilson will have a tough job to do if they are serious about qualifying for next season’s Champions League while trying to relieve Celtic of their crown. national. That Aribo recorded 57 appearances for the club last season is indicative of his huge importance to this Rangers side.
But with Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace forming an orderly queue outside his agent’s office, it looks like the Nigerian international could already be on borrowed time in Van Bronckhorst’s dressing room.
There is good news here for the Ibrox boss, however, even if Aribo turns out to be linked with the Premier League. For starters, if three or more clubs from the English top flight are all at the table at the same time, a bidding war is likely to ensue, meaning Rangers could get away with allowing him to put terminated his contract up to that point.
If they can reap a fee in excess of £10m for a player they bought for buttons, it can still be seen as a shrewd deal and such a bargain will also give Van Bronckhorst a chance to get out of this. window. with his own ambitions for next season intact. Also, he might already have a replacement for Aribo inside the building in the form of incredibly talented teenager Alex Lowry.
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Last season was Lowry’s breakout campaign, but the youngster still found playing time hard to come by. Largely because of Aribo’s ubiquity alongside Van Bronckhorst.
After celebrating his 19th birthday last week, it may seem too much to expect weakling Lowry to take on Aribo’s role as the team’s chief designer. But the potential enormity of his ability says otherwise.
Come to think of it, there’s more than a touch of young Ian Durrants about this kid who not only has the speed of thought and passing range to split open defenses, but also the tight control to drive past. opponents as if the ball was stuck to one of his boots.
If Lowry is lucky enough to thrive with additional responsibilities, he could well become a major player for Van Bronckhorst over the next few months. And that would be a major problem solved.
But the manager also needs to have urgent conversations with Kent and Morelos before he knows what will be needed before the start of the new season at the end of next month. PAOK striker Antonio Colak’s name has already been placed on Wilson’s desk at a time when Sevilla are believed to be preparing a low-ball offer for Morelos of less than £7million.
Given that Rangers pushed back more than double that amount from French side Lille two years ago, that would be painful as far as Wilson’s professional pride is concerned. Allowing assets to depreciate to such an extent can be notoriously difficult to explain around the boardroom table.
But if the Colombian has his heart set on playing in La Liga, Rangers may have to accept whatever is on offer and, in that case, Van Bronckhorst will need more than one new striker this summer. When Morelos limped on the sidelines last season, the manager’s lack of attacking options became so crippling that he ended the season with Aribo operating as a makeshift centre-forward.
He certainly can’t afford to cross his fingers and hope that Kemar Roofe can make it through May without having to stop occasionally on the treatment table. So either Morelos stays and Van Bronckhorst adds one more striker to his squad – or Morelos leaves and the manager needs two of them.
And then, perhaps most difficult of all, will be finding a replacement in case Kent too decides his time in this country is up. The Englishman cost around £7.5million when Steven Gerrard made him a permanent signing from Liverpool three years ago and while his statistics in the final third could be improved, his value to the team is almost impossible to measure.
At 25, Kent is about to enter his prime and the prospect of him getting better with age is something Van Bronckhorst will have to factor in when determining what to do next with this dealer. blazing speed. If Rangers choose to cash in on him now, they might have the chance to make a decent profit.
If they allow him to exhaust his contract they will lose everything, but Van Bronckhorst will also have to work out how much it would cost to replace a player of Kent’s quality. And that’s before you even stop to think if it would even be possible to attract such talent to the Scottish Premiership.
Keeping hold of Kent could therefore very well be Van Bronckhorst’s biggest priority for the transfer window. Lose it now and the hard work of this summer could become overwhelming.