Five things Rangers fans should know about Oguchi Onyewu

Onyewu, left, battling with Luca Toni at the 2006 World Cup. Picture: AFP/Getty

Onyewu, left, battling with Luca Toni at the 2006 World Cup. Picture: AFP/Getty

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Rangers are reportedly nearing a deal with the American centre back who’s been capped 69 times by the US national team and represented his nation at two World Cups.

However, it’s not been all plain sailing for Onyewu the last few years and his signing would be viewed as a major gamble on Rangers’ part.

Here’s everything fans should know about the prospective new signing.

He was voted America’s top footballer in 2006

In 2006 he was voted US Soccer’s Male Athlete of the Year, which is a very American way of saying ‘Player of the Year’. The prestigious honour has also been won by Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Michael Bradley.

It came at a time when Onyewu was at his peak. Standing 6ft 5in in height and almost the same width across his broad shoulders, he was a thoroughly dominant centre back physically. Not only was he stronger and better in the air than any striker he faced, he also had the beating of most of them on the ground, with deceptively good pace for such a giant. He has, however, been prone to the odd gaff, as evidenced by a disastrous spell at Newcastle - though that could be excused by playing alongside Titus Bramble.

He’s been beset by injuries

Unfortunately, 2006 is a long time ago. Though he recovered from the spell at Newcastle - going back to Standard Liege and winning another title - his career momentum would be derailed by a knee injury suffered shortly after he joined AC Milan. Since that time he’s really struggled to stay fit, while the mounting injury issues have robbed him of at least a yard of pace. Now at the age of 34, the last time he played a professional game was two years ago for Sheffield Wednesday.

He once got in a fight with Zlatan Ibrahimovic

While Onyewu was with Milan he got into a training ground bust-up with the legendary striker after Ibrahimovic trained to cut down the giant defender with a two-footed tackle. Now, let’s be clear on this, Ibrahimovic is not someone to you want to mess with. He grew up in a rough area of Malmo and had a black belt in taekwondo by the time he was 17. However, that didn’t stopped Onyewu from scrapping with the Manchester United striker and before the fight was stopped, Onyewu managed to break one of Zlatan’s ribs. The striker later said in his autobiography that if other players weren’t about, they may have killed each other.

He’s of strong character

Remember there was a player who, in order to win a new contract with Milan, requested to play for free for an entire year? Yeah, that was Onyewu. As Milan said at the time: “This is an exemplary gesture that deserves our sincere congratulations.”

During his time in Belgium he displayed the capacity to forgive after initially suing Jelle Van Damme for racial abuse during a match between Liege and Anderlecht. Onyewu decided to withdraw the criminal complaint when Van Damme met with the defender to apologise personally.

Onyewu credits religion with being a “huge part of his life” as a practising Catholic. In the aforementioned fight at Milan, Zlatan commented that immediately after the two were separated tears formed in the eyes of Onyewu and he began praying, which angered Ibrahimovic - because most things anger Zlatan.

There’s a song about him

Ok, so it hardly topped the Billboard 100, but Regional Municipality’s two-and-a-half-minute track dedicated to the beloved American centre back has received almost 100,000 views on YouTube. It’s available in the embedded video above or if you click this link. It features such lyric high-points as: “here he comes to stop the Mexicans, there they go back to Mexico.”

READ MORE - Rumour Mill: Rangers in for Will Grigg | Rodgers ‘keen to keep Johansen’ | Onyewu holds signing talks

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