Glen Kamara: Why Rangers will be wary after stellar Euro 2020 with Finland
As Glen Kamara and his compatriots left their Euro 2020 basecamp at Repino on the outskirts of Saint Petersburg on Thursday morning for the short trip home to Finland, they did so with their heads held high.
Lingering hopes that their historic maiden appearance at a major tournament finals might yet be extended by snatching a place in the last 16 were snuffed out by the dramatic final round of group stage fixtures on Wednesday evening.
The Finns required an unlikely combination of results, including France inflicting a heavy defeat on Portugal, in order to squeeze through as one of the four best third-placed teams. It’s likely their bags would already have been packed some time before the conclusion of Group F which saw France and Portugal draw 2-2, meaning it was Ukraine who claimed the last slot in the knockout stage and will head to Hampden next Tuesday night to face Sweden.
Time to take stock
For Rangers midfielder Kamara, there will now be the opportunity for some much needed and well-earned down time after a rewarding but gruelling 2020-21 season which saw him make 66 appearances for club and country (51 for Rangers and 15 for Finland).
When he does return to Glasgow next month to join the Scottish champions’ preparations for the new campaign, the 25-year-old will do so with his burgeoning reputation having been further enhanced by his performances at Euro 2020.
In all three of Finland’s Group B matches – the opening 1-0 win over Denmark, the narrow 1-0 loss to Russia and the ultimately decisive 2-0 defeat at the hands of group winners Belgium – Kamara caught the eye.
His composure in possession, accuracy of passing and willingness to accept the ball regardless of how tightly he was marked would have come as no surprise to Rangers manager Steven Gerrard whose regard for Kamara’s ability could not be higher.
Destined for bigger things?
Gerrard, who knows a thing or two about what it takes to become an elite midfielder, has previously stated Kamara could play for almost any club at any level of the game.
It’s an opinion clearly shared by Finland head coach Markku Kanerva, although the manner in which he expressed that view of Kanerva during Euro 2020 may have irked Rangers slightly.
“Hopefully he will continue his development (in a bigger league), it would be nice to see him playing even at bigger clubs,” he said.
It only takes a quick glance through Kanerva’s 26-man squad to form the reasonable view that none of his players are currently with a bigger or higher profile club than Rangers. A case could be made for the excellent Finnish goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky, who certainly operates in a bigger league at Bayer Leverkusen, but the rest of Kamara’s international team-mates ply their trade at less rarefied levels from the likes of Pafos in Cyprus to Mohun Bagan in India.
Yet the essence of Kanerva’s point is similar to Gerrard’s assessment of Kamara’s potential. It’s why the Rangers boss has so consistently expressed his desire for the player to be handed an improved and extended contract at Ibrox.
Kamara still has two seasons remaining on the initial deal he signed when he joined Rangers from Dundee in January 2019. The £50,000 fee paid to the Dens Park club, advancing a move which had already been secured on pre-contract terms for the subsequent summer window, increasingly looks like one of the biggest bargains in Scottish football history.
Rangers would certainly make a colossal profit if they chose to cash in on Kamara this summer. Having previously attracted continental interest from Anderlecht and Benfica, he now has no shortage of admirers in the English Premier League.
Newly promoted Watford are the most recent to be linked with him, joining a list which includes Aston Villa, West Ham United and Leeds United. It has also been suggested that Arsenal, where Kamara honed his skills in their academy and development squad set-up before leaving to join Dundee in 2017, have him on their radar for a potential return under Mikel Arteta.
No itchy feet
Kamara remains relaxed about his situation and is clearly not the type of character likely to agitate for a move.
“I’m a Rangers player until told otherwise,” he told the Finnish media earlier this month. “I’m not focused on anything else, it’s been really good (at Rangers).
“We just won the league unbeaten and had a good European run, so I’m not really focused on anything else. The club’s on the up and everyone is looking forward to next season. We want to go and retain that title.”
Gerrard will certainly regard Kamara as still pivotal to his hopes of holding onto that Premiership crown and making further progress in Europe where Rangers will attempt to reach the group stage of the Champions League for the first time since 2010-11.
Kamara will miss the first three games of Rangers’ qualifying campaign, however, as a consequence of the UEFA suspension he received for his retaliatory action towards Slavia Prague defender Ondrej Kudela in March after being on the receiving end of racist abuse which saw the Czech player banned for 10 matches.
Rangers will hope Ryan Jack is fully recovered from his close season surgery in time to compensate for Kamara’s absence but there’s no doubt his ban is still a blow for Gerrard.
Kamara was one of only three players – defender Connor Goldson and Borna Barisic were the others – to play in all 13 of Rangers’ Europa League matches last season.
It’s an indication of the trust and belief Gerrard has in Kamara on the bigger stage and why he will be so keen to retain his services for as long as possible.
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