Alex Rae: Red cards won’t put English clubs off Alfredo Morelos

The notion that the disciplinary problems encountered by Alfredo Morelos this season would put off potential suitors from the English Premier League just doesn’t hold water with Alex Rae.

Rangers' Alfredo Morelos clashes with Aberdeen's Max Lowe in the Scottish Cup quarter-final at Pittodrie. Picture: SNS

And the archetypal combative midfielder, who won the league with his boyhood Ibrox club, speaks from experience. “Even I got a move back in the day,” said the 49-year-old, who moved to Millwall from Falkirk in the 1990s before two £1 million moves allowed him to play in the English top flight with Sunderland and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Rae did so despite often falling foul of officialdom. Morelos has been shown four red cards this season, and 18 yellow cards – totals almost as eye-catching as the 28 goals he has netted for the Ibrox side during the campaign. Rae is defensive of the 22-year-old Colombian’s overall record during his time in Glasgow and with his previous club Helsinki, but also acknowledges that he was able to sort out his own card-collecting instincts through working with a sports psychologist.

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“If you take it over the course of his whole career it is just this season where there is a chequered flag,” said Rae. “I think he would cope with the physicality down there [in England]. Up here people target him and antagonise him. Unfortunately he has bitten a few times, picked up red cards and that does need to improve.

“I remember speaking to Ian Wright about this years ago and he said if you take that edge away from players you take away part of their game. I don’t quite subscribe to that.

“From my own experience, if you get on top of that stuff it can help. I went to see someone when I was 29-30 after a couple of red cards. My disciplinary record improved dramatically. The club benefitted and I benefitted. I had just come back from a three-match ban and in my first game back I was banned for four games for accidentally elbowing David Ginola. I realised I needed to get on top of that. I had to have more control over the way I was behaving.

“Because I came from the East End [of Glasgow] you asked questions later. After seeing someone I realised I didn’t need to lash out. I was worried about getting hurt and was lashing out. But, it was an irrational fear because I hadn’t really had a serious injury in the previous 13 years. I’m not saying this is what Morelos should be doing but it did help me. I’m categorically not telling anybody at Rangers what they should do.”

Rae wouldn’t dare tell his old team what they should be willing to accept to part with the striker who has intimated that he believes this summer will be the right time to move to a bigger league. The Scot considers Morelos’ development in the past 12 months suggests he could make a success of a move to a mid-table English top flight side and follow the route of former Celtic players Virgil van Dijk and Victor Wanyama, who swapped Scotland for Southampton before being bought by Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, respectively.

“When you look at Morelos last season he ran offside in one of the Old Firm games about four times,” said Rae. “From that guy there to the guy now, the progress over a year has been remarkable. He is bullying centre-halves and scoring goals. He has a lot of good attributes. If you also think how much it impacts Rangers when he’s not playing. His importance to Rangers just now is massive. If he continues to progress in this manner you start thinking just how far can he go?

“I think he will go to a stepping stone club. He has already been linked to Leicester. A club like that would be a good move. If you look at van Dijk and Wanyama – that is the career path Morelos will be looking to take. He won’t go from Rangers straight to a top four or top six team [in England].

“If you had asked me a year ago if he could follow in the footsteps of van Dijk and Wanyama I would have said he would do well to get a Premiership club. However, his trajectory over the past year has been incredible. If he can go down there and keep scoring goals he could kick on again. The level is so much higher and we don’t know how he will adapt.”