Alfredo Morelos: Rangers rocked by devastating news - why he might have played last game for club

It is the news that Rangers fans have been dreading. Star striker Alfredo Morelos is out for the rest of the season.

The Colombian has undergone successful surgery on his injured thigh, the Ibrox club has confirmed, and they say that he has already begun his rehabilitation and should be back for pre-season training ahead of the 2022/23 campaign.

This is a devastating blow to manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst and all at Rangers, given his importance to the team. He leads the line with such bullish bravado, roughing up defenders, linking play, running the channels and – crucially – scoring goals. There is no other player in the team who can fulfil the same role that Morelos does.

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His absence was glaring during Sunday’s 2-1 defeat by Celtic, which has left Rangers’ defence of the cinch Premiership title in serious jeopardy. They need to overhaul a six-point gap and a goal-difference deficit of 16 with just six games remaining. Morelos would have been central to that mission. Now Rangers need Kemar Roofe and Fashion Sakala to step up to the plate.

Neither forward is as dangerous in an all-round sense as Morelos. Roofe is a adroit finisher, and shows intelligence, while Sakala has pace and energy. The Zambian still displays raw features, however, and has looked more like an impact substitute this season.

These are worrying times for Rangers. Morelos’ contract situation cannot be ignored, with 15 months left to run on his existing deal. Speculation has been rife about his future at Ibrox during many a transfer window, but the summer represents Rangers’ last opportunity to recoup a tangible fee for the 25-year-old before his deal enters its final year.

Rangers have already initiated discussions with Morelos’ representatives about a new contract, but with the guarantee of Champions League group-stage football now unlikely and the spectre of fundraising demands always looming over the club, the requirement to sell might be too great. Furthermore, with Morelos entering the prime years of his career, it is far from certain he wants to stay at Rangers beyond 2023. He has served the club so well since his arrival in 2017, but he may feel his race at Ibrox is run.

“He will return to training with the first-team squad during pre season,” Rangers’ statement read on Morelos’ injury. The club’s restless fanbase will desperately hope he will return to first team once again.