We need to give Borna Barisic love and attention says Rangers’ Steve Gerrard
Ibrox boss says left-backs are a rare and special commodity and Croatian must be cherished
While most of the transfer attention has surrounded striker Alfredo Morelos, Steven Gerrard knows left-backs can be just as desirable.
He currently has one who is excelling at both ends of the pitch. Borna Barisic is a member of a defence that is looking to make it four clean sheets in a row in the league at Livingston tomorrow as Rangers seek to take further advantage of Celtic’s inactivity. He also opened his account for the season with the free-kick opener in Wednesday night’s 3-0 win over St Johnstone.
The player was linked with a move to AS Roma last season as Rangers progressed to the last 16 of the Europa League. Manager Steven Gerrard expects to be fielding calls about Barisic as well as Morelos in the weeks ahead.
Left-back, like striker, is a specialist position and players in the modern game can wield every bit as much influence from there as up front. But some are better at it than others, which makes them such a precious commodity.
Look at Celtic’s struggles to replace Kieran Tierney, with Boli Bolingoli’s bid to establish himself likely to have ended already for reasons not solely connected to his performances, unconvincing though they have been.
“Left-backs are difficult to get,” said Gerrard. “It’s the reason Arsenal paid so heavly for Kieran Tierney. It’s the reason (Liverpool manager) Jurgen Klopp has just had to spend £11 or £12 million for another left-back when he already has one (Andy Robertson) that’s worth whatever amount of money. They are difficult to get. And we own one.”
Barisic signed an extension to his contract to 2024 earlier this year. Leeds United are the last club credited with an interest in him but Gerrard is unperturbed by such reports. He stressed Rangers are in a strong position when it comes to retaining him.
“We are even stronger than strong, really,” he said. “Borna is happy here, he’s settled. He loves it here and we love him.
He’s staying here. He’s not for sale. But if someone did come, they would have to bring an awful lot of money with them.”
“We’re not surprised if there is any interest in Borna,” he added. “Of course, we’re not because he has been a consistent performer for us for some time now and has started the season so brightly again.”
The Croatian arrived at Ibrox two years ago this month but it has not always been straightforward as he sought to establish himself at left-back.
“His team-mates have helped him settle,” said Gerrard. “As a staff and a club we have worked ever so hard to make him happy. We want to just enjoy that and hope it stays like that for a long time.”
“It’s a big challenge,” added Gerrard, with reference to players – especially those from abroad – settling in. He hopes new signings such as Cedric Itten – can benefit from the same warmth extended by team-mates towards Barisic, a popular figure at the club. Adapting to new surroundings can be a challenge for anyone, as Gerrard knows himself.
“I have only come from three hours down the road and it took me time to settle in,” he said. “I’m used to this type of environment and this type of city. But it’s different, especially for foreign players. Sometimes they come alone. Sometimes with just a girlfriend or wife. They need some love, care and attention from the people who are settled here.
“That will help them settle quicker and get the best form out of them,” he added. “I’ve spoken to the leadership group here at length about helping Cedric settle as quick as we can. I do that with all the foreign players.
“With the likes of Kemar (Roofe) and the more local lads, they tend to already know people in the dressing room. They are obviously used to the climate more and the kind of city. But with foreign players we all need to go out of our way to help them settle quicker.”
One player who has managed to swiftly find his feet is goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin. Gerrard revealed the former Hearts keeper will start in goal again tomorrow as Allan McGregor continues his recovery from an injury picked up against Bayer Leverkusen. The manager admitted he will have a pleasant problem when McGregor is back fit.
“It will be a headache I have wanted for a long time,” he said. “I have wanted two strong keepers battling for that jersey.
“But Allan has a lot of credit in the bank with me because he’s been superb since coming back to the club. Just because Jon is in good form it doesn’t mean we don’t love Allan as much.”
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