The Alfredo Morelos conundrum - why Rangers may be best served by resisting the temptation to cash in on their European talisman
It’s not just a case of whether the Ibrox club decide to finally sell the Colombian striker, it’s a matter of when. As the now perennial transfer window speculation surrounding Morelos gathers pace, with Sevilla and Besiktas emerging as his latest suitors, it may well serve van Bronckhorst’s interests best of all for the 26-year-old to at least start the new season in a Rangers shirt.
The month of August will be pivotal in shaping both the sporting and financial narrative of the 2022-23 campaign for the Ibrox club as they attempt to negotiate the two qualifying round ties which stand between them and a place in the group stage of the Champions League.
It’s difficult to reach any other conclusion than that their prospects of doing so would be diminished if they went into those matches without the man who is their all-time leading scorer in European competition.
As Morelos goes into the final year of his current contract, it’s understood Rangers value him at around £15 million. So far, the sums La Liga side Sevilla and Turkish outfit Besiktas would be willing to pay for him are a long way short of that number.
For the moment, the greatest return Rangers could get from Morelos is a contribution on the pitch which takes them into the Champions League group stage and secures the £30 million bounty that provides.
It’s why van Bronckhorst would clearly welcome being able to call upon a fit and firing Morelos when Rangers enter the tournament at the third qualifying round stage at the start of August.
Although Rangers will be seeded throughout the qualifiers, there is no easy path. In the third qualifying round, their four possible opponents are French heavyweights Monaco, Austrian side Sturm Graz, Belgian league runners-up Union Saint-Gilloise and the winners of the second qualifying round tie between Midtjylland of Denmark and Cypriot side AEK Larnaca.
If they progress to the play-off round, Rangers’ likely rivals will be either Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven or the winner of the third qualifying round tie between Dynamo Kyiv of Ukraine and Turkish League runners-up Fenerbahce.
Whatever happens, the dust will have settled on Rangers’ European fate by August 24 when they will know if Champions League group stage football is to be hosted at Ibrox for the first time in 12 years or whether they will instead be undertaking a fifth consecutive season in the group stage of the Europa League.
If it is the latter, they may then opt to make up some of the financial discrepancy between the two competitions by cashing in on the sale of Morelos before the transfer window closes on September 1.
Yet there would also still be a strong argument to retain their European talisman, even if he cannot be persuaded to sign a new deal. Rangers have had excellent value for the £1 million they paid to HJK Helsinki for Morelos in the summer of 2017.
He has scored 112 goals in his 224 appearances since then, with his tally of 29 in 57 European games crucial to the restoration of the club’s standing on the continental stage. Neither party owe each other anything.
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