There will be moves to determine Dave King’s legacy at Rangers following the South African businessmen’s announcement this week that he will step down as chairman of the club next year following five years financing a football organisation that seemed permanently in a state of flux.
Last night’s events at the De Kuip stadium could allow for an argument to be put forward that even when the inscrutable King seemed to cock-up – and he has plenty – ultimately he derived spectacular dividends.
Rangers require only a draw at home to Young Boys in their final Europa League group game in two weeks to progress to the knock-out stages of continental competition for the first time since 2010-11 following the frenetic 2-2 draw Steven Gerrard’s men earned against Feyenoord.
The fact this precious point was gifted them by the glorious goalscoring prowess of Alfredo Morelos could be used as evidence that even King’s least shrewd move, hiring Pedro Caixinha as manager in 2017, hardly constitutes the complete shambles that it understandably appeared. For it was during the Portuguese’s ill-fated 229-day tenure that Morelos was signed, the Colombian forward arriving in June 2017 for £1million from HJK Helsinki.
Fast forward to the club agm, at which King announced his long goodbye, and it found Gerrard making the claim that not even a £50m bid would move the Ibrox club to part with an asset who, frankly, almost makes every single calamity endured in the Caixinha worthwhile. Almost.
Morelos is the man who makes Rangers. He has provided Gerrard’s men with a competitive edge across all their continental sorties this season. His two lethal headed goals in the opening spell of the second period last night turned on its head a tie in which Dick Advocaat’s men appeared to have their visitors on the ropes in. Morelos, though, is the heavyweight who time and again is capable of delivering blows that send opponents to the canvas.
The draw ensured that Gerrard has lost only three of 27 European games that he has taken charge for. Morelos is absolutely central to that record, with his double allowing the 23-year-old to create a new Scottish record all of his own in the striker usurping Henrik Larsson for the number of goals netted for a club based in these borders in Europe in a single season.
Morelos now has 13, one more than Celtic’s storied Swede, in a season that has brought him 24 goals in only 20 starts and eight substitute appearances.
Moreover, though, he has netted in each of Rangers’ last four European games. In doing so, there are now only nine players in history who have now bagged more goals in a single European season than Morelos. An exalted list that includes such luminaries as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy.
As much as proving he had the temperament, Morelos’ exploits in cross-border competition have demonstrated he has the dead-eye to plunder against premier opponents. His displays against Porto, Feyenoord and Young Boys indeed – the forward scoring against six of the seven teams that Rangers have met in Europe this season – may cause a little anxiety in Gerrard. That is because Morelos’ ability to step up in this domain with such potency suggests it would be inexplicable were a host of cash-rich sides in the English Premier League not to consider him in the January transfer window.
King, like his manager, has said that Rangers would not entertain bids. Understandable, since on Morelos’ shoulders rests Rangers ability to continue to slug it out with Celtic at the top of the Premiership. The only issue is that the outgoing chairman’s “overspend” has left Rangers requiring to plug a £10m hole in their finances before the end of the season. While Celtic haven’t been weakened despite raking in £50m from parting with their jewels Moussa Dembele and Kieran Tierney in the past 14 months, for Rangers selling the family silver would equate to selling out their best hopes of the silverware they crave.