No defence seems immune to the plundering prowess of Alfredo Morelos right now. Bagging a new record of 13 European goals for a Scottish-based player in a single season with his double against Feyenoord on Thursday, the Colombian seems to possess the Midas touch in front of goal. Except in one context that will be homed in on ahead of next Sunday’s League Cup final at Hampden. For the glaring absence across a near-two year Ibrox career wherein he has found the net an incredible 72 times, this week also became the first man to score in four consecutive European games for the club, and netted against 10 of the current Scottish top flight teams, is a goal against Celtic.
“I know how he feels,” said Kris Boyd in rueful fashion this week. Yet, the Rangers predator-turned-pundit does and he doesn’t. As it stands, the two strikers can point to broadly similar stats in games against Celtic. Both have 10 appearances in the derby, Boyd starting in seven such fixtures with two outings from the bench while the corresponding split for Morelos is seven and three. The crucial difference, though, is that Boyd has one goal from his derby tally… albeit scored in a dead rubber in May 2007.
Boyd’s bluntness against Celtic resulted in Walter Smith, pictured inset, stopping picking him for the club’s most exacting domestic challenge. That is where the former Kilmarnock man is in no doubts his Ibrox career will further diverge from a Morelos who, courtesy of such current supreme form with 24 goals to his name already this season, will soon scratch his Celtic itch.
“As goalscorers, it doesn’t really play on your mind,” said the 36-year-old. “I look back now and wish I’d maybe scored more, but at the time there’s more made out of it in the media in the build-up to games. You concentrate on your next game and you knew if you were scoring against them it would have given me an opportunity to play in the Old Firm games, which would have been a big step.
“I can look back now and say I should have done this or that, but for Alfredo Morelos right now it’s business as usual. He’ll be looking at the next game as an opportunity to go and break his duck and score against Celtic.
“It’s only a matter of time when you see the improvement from the end of last season. It’s night and day. He’s a player on tip of his game. Rangers miss when he’s not playing, we saw that on Sunday [at Hamilton]. He’s something different, a throwback to the older generation’s style of strikers, he’s robust and doesn’t really bother with anything else, the style. With a lot of players now, it’s the style, how they look when they play the game. He doesn’t care. He’s still annoying people, he’s in your face, he’s angry, he plays aggressive and all of that controlled has turned him into a top-class striker right now who looks as if every single game he plays he’s going to score a goal.
“He’s going to leave Rangers one day, we know that, and he’s playing like a guy who wants to get as much money as he can for Rangers but also as much for himself as he can when the move comes. He wants to be able to justify [the money], he wants to be able to say I have done this, this, this. I have scored against all these teams. That is why he wants to score against Celtic, so he can add that to his CV.
“He has scored league goals, he has scored European goals and he is now off the mark for Colombia. What Morelos is doing is generating money for Rangers and getting a healthier wage packet for himself.”
In terms of his own paltry ratio against Celtic – who he never netted against in the spells at Rugby Park that bookended a career which took in Middlesbrough, Eskişehirspor and Portland Timbers – Boyd isn’t kept awake at night.
“I didn’t think back then when I scored against Celtic that would be my only one. Looking now, it’s disappointing but then you thought it would be the start of going and getting a good few against Celtic. It wasn’t to be and if there’s one thing in your career that you look back on with regret, that’s probably it. I managed to score almost 300 goals [293 in total]. One of them was against Celtic. I’m sure a lot of other strikers would have swapped 299 goals for one against Celtic. I can’t sit here and complain.”
Boyd’s wise take on his derby goal record extends to one of the burning Scottish football issues of the day sure to be given laldy in the lead-up to next Sunday’s final: who is the better striker – Celtic’s Odsonne Edouard or Morelos? His answer to that is Solomon-like in its even-handedness.
“Depends on what team you are in. They are two totally different players,” said Boyd of two players also with contrasting derby records owing to the Frenchman having ransacked five goals in his 12 appearances against Rangers. “I’ll flip it back and I will say I don’t think Odsonne Edouard would have as big an impact in the Rangers team as what Morelos does but I don’t think Morelos would have as big an impact in the Celtic team as Edouard does.
“The players Celtic have in the wide areas and midfield need a striker that is going to hold the ball up, take touches, bring them into play and get runners off them. When you look at Rangers one, a lot of their players are looking for those little passes, looking for striker down the sides. If I am sitting on Football Manager, I’d probably sign the two of them.”