It’s been clear for some time that Rangers face a potentially pivotal summer.
Not only will it be the first summer transfer window under manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst, there will likely be key decisions to be made over a number of key players.
But perhaps none more so than Alfredo Morelos.
The striker’s importance to Rangers was underlined over a hugely contrasting few days in which they transformed from meek and toothless in his absence to aggressive and deadly following his return.
Morelos turned in a stellar display during the emphatic 5-0 win over Hearts on Sunday and Van Bronckhorst fielded questions over the 25-year-old’s future on Tuesday.
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The Colombian has been forever linked with big moves but, so far, none have materialized. Morelos will enter the final year of his deal come the summer.
Van Bronckhorst confirmed talks about a renewal will open before the end of the season, so here’s five factors upon which Morelos’ future could hinge.
It’s not often Morelos speaks in public, but when he does there’s usually something revealing.
Rangers fans had grown used to hearing the forward address transfer speculation but in a latest interview with Sky Sports he struck a rather different tone.
“Playing in the Champions League is a source of motivation for me. We’re going to fight for that,” he said in January.
With a £40million jackpot and most likely to place in the group stage awaiting this season’s Premiership winners, it suggests Morelos is already looking to next season at Ibrox.
It’s no guarantee that, if I have decided not to renew, then a Champions League club would come calling.
Of course, Rangers must still see off Celtic leaders in the title race – and you feel Morelos will be key to that.
The capture of Aaron Ramsey on-loan from Juventus on deadline day placed focus on Rangers’ wage structure, with sporting director Ross Wilson stressing the club would not deviate from it.
Morelos is unlikely to demand an exorbitant salary but Rangers may have to push the boat out just a little if they want to keep him.
The club have been creative in structuring deals before and could feasibly offer the player something enticing without breaking the bank.
There’s also the possibility Morelos could see the prospect of the Champions League as an opportunity to showcase himself on the biggest stage of all – but it wouldn’t be ideal from Rangers’ financial standpoint if he ended up doing so while into the final year of his contract.
Premier League dream
With his contract moving towards its final 12 months and his Rangers form hitting top gear, it’s not out of the question for a side in England’s top-flight to come calling this summer.
There are players with much less impressive CVs than Morelos who’ve earned a move to the PL and clubs have shown interest in the past.
From early on at Rangers, Morelos has made no secret that his dream is to play in the Premier League.
The striker also said last year that if the opportunity presented itself, he would take it.
And that’s perhaps why he may wish to see what presents itself come the end of the season.
Life in Glasgow
Another interesting snippet from Morelos’ recent Sky interview was just how content he appears to be in Scotland these days.
He said: “I feel very happy in Glasgow, as do my family. My daughter is really settled here, I feel very pleased. Rangers really welcomed me when I joined, as did the fans, so I feel really happy here.”
It suggests it could take a real game-changing offer to convince him to relocate elsewhere.
That the above comments coincide with some excellent form can surely be no accident either.
It’s been well publicized, of course, how much Morelos wants to play in the Premier League etc, but being satisfied with life as it is can’t be discounted in what comes next, either.
And the big question for Rangers in the event of a departure would be – how do you replace him?
Try as they might over the past few seasons, Rangers have not been able to find a player who can replicate what Morelos gives the team – both in terms of goals and overall contribution.
It was painfully evident against Celtic last week that none of Van Bronckhorst’s other forward options can do what the Colombian can.
Kemar Roofe has been a successful signing but offers a different skillset, while chances are rapidly running out for Cedric Itten.
Others have come and gone without making much impact in the years since Morelos arrived from HJK Helsinki in 2017.
Clearly, cashing in on assets at the right time is key for Rangers’ business model, but whether their star striker can be effectively replaced is a real conundrum.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.