Ryan Kent has admitted his heart triumphed over his head on transfer deadline day when he turned his back on the ultimate in Champions League glamour to return to Rangers.
Had things not taken the dramatic turn he longed for in the closing hours of 2 September, Kent would now be a Bruges player preparing for a Group A campaign in Europe’s elite club competition against Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Galatasaray.
The 22-year-old winger was minutes away from boarding a flight to sign for the Belgian club when he finally received the call from Steven Gerrard he had been longing for all summer.
Kent duly changed his travel plans and within a few hours had signed a four-year contract with Rangers, becoming the second most expensive player in their history as they agreed a £7 million fee with Liverpool.
Just as Rangers supporters came to adore Kent during his loan spell at Ibrox last season so, too, did he establish an affection for the club which ensured they remained his preferred destination.
“I was pretty close to getting on the flight to Belgium,” said Kent. “I was already checked in and sitting in the departure lounge at Manchester airport. That’s when I got a call from my agent and the gaffer saying ‘Don’t go on the flight’.
“I was getting ready to sign for Bruges. They are in the Champions League and that was one of the main reasons I was heading there. It would have been a big platform for me to showcase myself against the best European clubs.
“But my heart was set on coming back here. I think I can achieve everything I want at Rangers and take myself to where I want to go.
“This is the first place I have really enjoyed my football. I was excited to come into training every day, I couldn’t wait to step out on the pitch at the weekend.
“That is down to the fans here, the coaching staff and the players. They made me feel special. The first day I arrived at Rangers everybody treated me not only as a player but as a friend. I have a lot of good mates here and as a team there is a lot of ambition. When I got that call at the airport, I had a big smile on my face. It was probably the first time I had smiled in quite a while.
“I was just delighted. That was the call I had been waiting for the whole transfer window and for it to finally come around was a no brainer for me. I had to get in the car and get up here.
“It would have been hard if I’d had to go through with the Bruges move. But I knew that as much as I wanted to be here at Rangers, I do have to look after myself as well.
“Bruges did offer a good platform for me to go and play against some of the best teams and opposition in the world on a big stage, so there was an element of excitement about going there.
“But there was also a side of me disappointed that the chances to come back to Rangers might not come around again.”
Kent was left frustrated during the summer when he was initially included in Liverpool’s first-team squad for their pre-season fixtures but then found himself back in their under-23 side.
“I had to start training on my own and make sure I kept my fitness levels up,” he said. “It was quite hard because it felt like the longest pre-season of my life. There was an agreement I would go out to America with Liverpool and see if I wanted to change my mind about staying there.
“I worked hard at the start of the season and we had agreed I could come back to Rangers. Liverpool didn’t want me to go out on loan again. I wanted to come back to Rangers all the way through but that was being restricted from happening until the final day of the window.”
Kent, who scored six goals in 43 appearances for Rangers last season, has no qualms about meeting the expectations of their support and living up to the hefty fee the Ibrox board sanctioned for him.
“I probably wouldn’t have come back here if I wasn’t comfortable with it,” he added. “I know what I have to do to go and deliver, just as every other player has to go and deliver it.
“There are eleven people on the pitch and I am just one of them, so if I can do my part then that’s all I can do.”