The head-over-heels nature of Niko Kranjcar’s feelings for Rangers are making for one giddy honeymoon period.
The 81-times capped Croatian international gave up a life in New York with the revived Cosmos to come last month to Glasgow and push for the Premiership title with newly promoted Rangers. Yet the urbane 31-year-old sees no sacrifice in swapping the Manhattan skyline for that of the Clydeside.
“Glasgow is beautiful. I prefer it. You might laugh but I do prefer it,” he said. “For me, it’s got a lot more soul. I don’t need to even comment on the pitches – it’s like a billiard table out there compared to artificial grass. I’m surprised with the city. I feel really comfortable in it and I’m enjoying my time. It’s beautiful to play football in this type of environment. I like it when it’s wet and not too hot, I can run around.”
Not that the playmaker wants to be panting around and dilute the impact of his measured artistry. Even if Mark Warburton maintains that Kranjcar, pictured, must put in a shift like the rest of his players, Rangers 4-3-3 orthodoxy, and their possession-based passing game, means he has found a club where the former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder believes he can savour his football for the “few good years” he has left.
“As long as I have a lot of contact with the football then I will be happy. Obviously my defending isn’t the best. I am happiest when I am in the first XI for starters, then it’s for the manager. But I have to say the way I am playing right now in this team, and the way we play, with a lot of rotation and a lot of interchanging and moving between the lines, it suits me a lot. Our style has surprised me. I knew about it, I’d read about it. I knew about how the manager likes to play. But I’ve been really impressed and I believe it’s the way the game should be played. I’m so happy to be part of it.
“I expect our style of play to be dominant in games. We’ll be pushing for the questions and answers in every single one we play. I honestly believe that we have the quality in the squad to push for the title.
“The size of the club attracted me here. It was a great opportunity to be in focus again, football-wise. I didn’t need anyone to explain to me what Rangers means. Everyone in the football world knows that.
“We all know it’s been a difficult time for this club. But I’m really happy that I’m part of the group that’s trying to bring Rangers back to where it belongs.”
Injury and bad career choices have left Kranjcar “not happy with the last two or three years, achievement-wise”.
“Unfortunately, the Dynamo Kiev move wasn’t the best for me,” he said. “It’s a fantastic football club but it didn’t click between myself and Dynamo. I had a couple of nice loan spells at QPR but we got relegated. So the motivation is to finish my career on a high. To be at a big club like Rangers sets me up to do it. That’s the biggest motivation.
“The last time I really competed for a title was with Dinamo Zagreb when I was 20 [and it was won]. I could say Spurs but we faded away at the end. That’s why it was such a big thing for me to come to a club which was competing for a title. I’m honoured and blessed to be here.”