Rangers and scepticism seem to run hand in hand after the events surrounding the club’s liquidation helped usher in Scottish football’s post-truth age. In recent days, this has meant certain sections of the blogosphere expressing disbelief over the reported £8 million offer the Ibrox club were said to have received for Alfredo Morelos from Beijing Renhe – one of three bids made by the Chinese Super League team in the closing days of the transfer window.
It didn’t help that China’s two Guangzhou clubs were initially quoted as the suitors. And that, by the close of the window, both they and Renhe were up to their quota of four for the number of foreign players permitted within their squads.
Graeme Murty provided further fuel for the cynics when he said after his team’s Scottish Cup win in Fraserburgh on Wednesday that Morelos had been left “confused” by the transfer talk and that “figures [are] being bandied around that would turn anyone’s head. How real they are, I’m not sure. It’s almost designed to confuse and unsettle.”
One BBC reporter then questioned the veracity of Renhe’s interest via twitter the next day… before quickly performing a volte face and stating he had now seen the bids.
As he prepared his team for today’s visit of Hibernian with a“fine” and focused once more Morelos, Murty dismissed any suggestions there was any massaging of the situation on being asked how “authentic” the interest in the Colombian striker has been.
‘It was [authentic],” he said. “It was big [the bid]. I heard some big numbers but as far as I was aware I was under no economic imperative to sell. If I can’t bring in a player at the same level or even better than the one we were letting go [then we won’t sell]. We want a squad capable of challenging in all competitions and Alfredo is our top scorer and we want to keep him healthy and firing.”
With Rangers a loss-making operation and the outlay on Morelos a relatively modest £1.2m only six months ago, the opportunity for Rangers to make a profit in the region of 500 per cent, to outsiders, seemed an offer too good to refuse.
Yet Murty maintains he was not surprised the mega-bucks deal was rebuffed.
“I was told to make a footballing decision,” he said. “I was not told we had got to a level where we were taking the bid. If we had got there we would have accepted it. But I was told just to make a footballing decision. Can you replace Alfredo Morelos within 24 hours? No. Can you get someone as good or better than Alfredo Morelos in 24 hours? No. So I was told that the money would not drive what we were doing.”
He agreed with the assertion put to him that retaining Morelos when the temptation to sell must have been powerful sent out a “good message about where the club is”.
“I think so. It’s great for me,” Murty said. “Possibly there may have been times at this club when that deal would have happened. It hasn’t happened. Obviously the Chinese window is not synced to ours and they may come back [before it closes at the end of February] but we will deal with that when it happens. But it was really good to know that the chairman and the board were not driving it [the decision to sell] and that he remains our player.” That is likely to come with a cost that Murty would consider appropriate. Morelos was reported to have been miffed at missing out on a reputed £20,000 increase on his £7,000-a-week Ibrox salary. The Rangers manager revealed that there will be talks aimed at recognising his worth in the market.
“If you think of his valuation, it probably bodes us well that we look at his deal and make sure that he’s happy being here,” said Murty.
“We’re discussing players’ contracts right now. Even if they have a length of time left on their contracts, we need to make sure we protect them for the club, that we have to reward if they’re doing really well. Alfredo comes into that bracket but he’s not the only one. He’s just the most high-profile at the moment. Talks are ongoing between the director of football and board at all times regarding the player. The playing squad is always looked at and if we need to make sure contracts are altered, changed, improved or anything along those lines.”