The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Morelos circus must conclude now

Big-money move is best for both parties

- Gary Keown SPORTS FEATURE WRITER OF THE YEAR

ALFREDO MORELOS has never made any secret of the fact he sees Rangers as a stepping stone to somewhere bigger. The Ibrox club, meanwhile, have been equally clear that raising funds through the transfer market now has to become a ‘pillar’ of their business model after years of relying on investors.

Sorry for putting two and two together and all that, but it seems pretty clear what has to happen next then, doesn’t it?

Now that the latest, predictabl­e round of speculatio­n has broken out around the Colombian striker, a week before the new season and with an all-important Champions League qualifier on the horizon, it is time for proper work to start on both parties carving out these paths they visualise for themselves.

Morelos and Rangers is a relationsh­ip that has surely run its course. It has been an eventful four years. Often tumultuous. With an incredible high last season that made all those swings and roundabout­s seem worthwhile. But it’s time for both of them to get on with their lives.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard stated in an interview on Friday that answering questions about Morelos’ future is ‘getting a bit tiresome’. It is easy to see why. If the champions had a pound for every time Gerrard had to field enquiries over his errant charge, they wouldn’t have to flog their punters umpteen different strips and T-shirts a season and find ‘official partners’ for bitcoins and power drinks. At this rate, it will be yo-yos and bonsai trees next.

It is not reporters seeking clarity on what is happening with Morelos that’s the core of this problem, though. It is the fact that, almost every single transfer window, we all find ourselves in the same boat with the 25-year-old, going round and round in circles.

Clubs from here, there and everywhere get linked. Morelos starts appearing on radio stations back in his homeland to talk about how he fancies moving to England. Tiresome as it may be, this stuff doesn’t just appear out of nowhere or by accident.

Gerrard appearing to concede that he doesn’t know when his firstchoic­e forward will be back from holiday, though, just makes this particular situation even messier.

Winning their 55th title last term should be the catalyst for Rangers maturing as a club. Carrying more weight. Calling the shots a little more. It means they no longer have to tolerate players messing them about just because they happen to be good at putting the ball in the net. When they are in the mood, that is.

Potential involvemen­t in the Champions League should also make Rangers a more appealing sell to other up-and-coming forwards looking to raise their profile. Sure, finding a like-for-like replacemen­t for Morelos within the budget won’t be easy, but at least there are some added incentives to dangle in front of noses along with the pounds, shillings and pence.

Come to Glasgow, spend two or three years winning trophies and playing at the highest level in Europe, go on to greater fame and fortune elsewhere and everybody ends up quids-in.

It has worked nicely for Celtic for years. And Rangers now have to make it work for them, too.

In Morelos’ defence, he probably didn’t expect to spend four years in Scotland after joining from HJK Helsinki in a £1million deal. He is entitled to feel he has done his bit. Letting players leave when you say you will is all part of modern-day transfer deals and you only need to look across the city to Parkhead and Odsonne Edouard to see that hanging onto a prized asset that little bit too long can be both dangerous and costly.

However, it is vitally important that Rangers make a statement with the fee brought in by their first big departure. They have to strike that difficult balance between raising finance by getting deals done and letting it be known they won’t let their top assets go for a song.

For everything that has gone wrong at Celtic in recent times, they have worked hard on making the terms on which they are prepared to deal crystal-clear. Kieran Tierney and Moussa Dembele, bringing in £25m and £19.8m respective­ly, built on earlier work in selling Virgil van Dijk and Victor Wanyama.

It also created an environmen­t in which they could demand that astonishin­g £11m-plus from Bayer Leverkusen for Jeremie Frimpong — albeit with a sizeable sell-on fee to Manchester City — and rake in £13.5m for Kristoffer Ajer from Brentford with just a year left on his contract.

Rangers must look to operate in the same ballpark and that is where sporting director Ross Wilson — along with decision-makers on the board — really have to step up to the plate.

Interest from Porto in Morelos appears genuine — even if reports from Portugal suggest they aren’t exactly ready to break the bank for him. That’s where Wilson has to earn his corn. As well as recruiting players, he has to negotiate agreements and find buyers at the right price for current employees if the desired transfer model is to work at Ibrox.

Glen Kamara, another of the club’s crown jewels along with Borna Barisic, needs to sign a

new deal or be sold with his current contract expiring in the summer of 2023. Whether he cost £50,000 from Dundee or not, his performanc­es in Europe and with the Finnish national team put him way into the eight-figure category in terms of current value.

Same goes for Morelos. And it is essential for all future business that his current club set a precedent in selling him while still being flexible enough to get a major transfer over the line.

It is only natural that the player should see this as a defining summer for him. Rangers should see it as a defining summer for them too.

Flogging Morelos for a respectabl­e sum that sends out the right messages can let both of them get where they need to go.

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 ??  ?? PRIZE ASSET: but it’s time Rangers cashed in on Morelos
PRIZE ASSET: but it’s time Rangers cashed in on Morelos

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