What Rangers are getting in new signing Filip Helander

Powerful centre-half Filip Helander has agreed a four-year deal with Rangers
Powerful centre-half Filip Helander has agreed a four-year deal with Rangers
Share this article
0
Have your say

Rangers have completed the signing of Swedish international defender Filip Helander. Patrick McPartlin looks at what the Gers are getting in the 26-year-old...

A player doesn't make close to 100 appearances in Italy's Serie A and pick up ten caps for their country without having something about them.

Helander clears the ball as Roma forward Edin Dzeko lurks

Helander clears the ball as Roma forward Edin Dzeko lurks

The arrival of Filip Helander at Ibrox is Rangers' eighth signing of the summer and something of a statement of intent. His reported £3.5 million price tag is the Light Blues' largest outlay on a player since the £4 million paid for Nikica Jelavic in August 2010 and will reportedly surpass the £5 million mark when add-ons are included.

From Sweden to Russia via Italy

The naturally left-sided centre-half - Rangers' first since Clint Hill and Danny Wilson were at the club - won plaudits for his performances at the back for Malmo in the Swedish top flight and was nominated for a handful of annual awards.

His displays earned him a move to Serie A with Hellas Verona in 2015 and although I Gialloblu finished the season dead bottom of the division, he extended his stay in the Italian top flight when Bologna came calling, acquiring the Swede on a season-long loan with an option to buy.

Goals against Inter Milan and Lazio put the gloss on an impressive first season in which he came up against some of Europe's top attacking talents but niggly injuries limited his game time during the 2015/16 campaign to 11 league appearances and he has endured other injury lay-offs as well including a knee problem that sidelined him for four weeks.

The arrival of Sinisa Mihaljovic, coupled with his time on the treatment table and the signing of another central defender saw his first-team chances reduced, although he was praised for undertaking additional work in training in a bid to force his way back into the Bologna first team.

Although an unused substitute, he was included in Sweden's squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and was kept out of the team by veteran and captain Andreas Granqvist, Manchester United centre-back and former Sweden Under-21 defensive colleague Victor Lindelof and Pontus Jansson.

Style of play

Helander could be termed an "old school centre-half" - Gers fans are unlikely to see the Swede nonchalantly spraying passes all over the pitch from the back, but what they will get is an uncompromising, powerful defender with a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

His positional sense is good, he can tackle effectively, intercept passes and break up play effectively and he'll willingly place himself in front of a goal-bound effort to clear the danger.

Man-marking is where Helander excels. He will doggedly trail a centre-forward all over the pitch, constantly pressing in a bid to win the ball back, although his willingness to go charging about the pitch could have risky consequences if his team-mates aren't switched on.

Pundits in Italy criticised his weakness on the ball and mistakes that led to goals, although he may be happier operating in a back four, rather than the back three that Bologna often played.

Impact at Rangers?

Where Helander slots in at Rangers is anyone's guess at the moment, although the smart money would be on partnering Goldson in Gerrard's strongest XI.

With the Light Blues competing in Europe and the three domestic competitions, a generously-sized squad is vital to ensure things keep ticking over.

If Helander can stay injury-free, there's no reason why he can't establish himself as a regular starter for Rangers. He isn't eligible for the Europa League return leg against St Joseph's next week but could come into contention in later rounds as well as domestically.

Rangers have spent the same amount on Helander that they spent on Katic and Goldson combined, an indication of how highly the coaching staff rate the defender.

Working under Gerrard, and in a back four, is likely to help Helander improve the weaker aspects of his game. The change in style of play between the Italian top flight and the Scottish Premiership is also likely to benefit the 26-year-old.