What next for Alfredo Morelos after PSV squad axe? Contract talks, transfer options & immediate future assessed
The 26-year-old striker will play no part in tonight’s crunch Champions League encounter with PSV Eindhoven.
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Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos has been in the firing line in recent days for his lack of fitness and attitude since returning from injury earlier this summer.
The Colombian did himself no favours at Easter Road last Saturday by lashing out with an elbow in the face of Hibs defender Marijan Cabraja when both players went to header the ball, giving referee Willie Collum no option but to brandish a straight red card for violent conduct.
His dismissal in the capital ensured the 26-year-old now boasts the worst red card record of any player in the club’s history and sparked widespread anger among team-mates and pundits, with captain James Tavernier branding Morelos “stupid” for letting the side down.
With a group stage place in Europe’s most prestigious club competition up for grabs, Van Bronckhorst’s decision is certainly a brave one given Morelos’ impressive European credentials - but it is justified.
He currently holds the club record for most goals scored in European competitions with 29, comfortably surpassing Ibrox legend Ally McCoist’s tally of 21.
However, when asked in his pre-match press conference yesterday to reveal the process that led to his decision to exclude Morelos, Van Bronckhorst admitted the player’s overall conditioning is not at the required level to impact games.
He said: “We have a lot of important games at the moment, it is for me as the manager to bring the players I think are ready to play.
“As a person, it was a hard decision but as a manager an easier one, we are here to represent out club and reach the Champions League.
“I think he has to show me he wants to play for Rangers. I know he wants to play, but to play for Rangers you need to have a certain level mentally and physically and at the moment I think he is not ready to play.
“I made the decision myself. Of course we have a leader group and I speak to the leader group quite often to talk about many things. I always keep in contact with them”
The Dutchman confirmed Morelos’ situation in the lead up such a vital fixture is far from ideal, but insists his squad are ready to face PSV without their talisman, who has so often delivered for Rangers on the big occasion.
He added: “Of course (we could have done without it). You have to decide who to bring, you see I have many players in my squad I am responsible for.
“We are very focused. We trained without Morelos the last few days. The players are training well, we have had good meetings and were prepared.
“For me it’s a decision I made but I am looking forward to the task ahead and my players have the same feeling.”
So what does the future hold for Morelos? Well, one thing is for sure, he appears determined to fight for his place at Rangers and prove to his fed-up manager that he deserves to stay at the club.
Morelos responded to the original news with his own post on Instagram yesterday. He wrote: “The best warrior is not one who always triumhps, but the one who fearlessly returns to battle.”
He captioned the graphic “miedo a dios”, which translates in English to “fear of god.”
Yes, it’s a major risk for any manager to drop one of their best players and risk their value being affected in the transfer market but Van Bronckhorst should be applauded for his decision.
It’s not entirely down to Morelos to resolve this problem.
Does Morelos have transfer options?
A case can be made that Morelos could be looking for a one-way ticket out of Ibrox given his recent behaviour.
His attitude and commitment around the club has been called into question, with Van Bronckhorst and several of his team-mates seemingly in a position where they are no longer prepared to stand for his off-field antics.
Branded “a stone heavy” by Celtic icon Chris Sutton after arriving back from his summer rehabilitation programme carrying plenty of weight, Morelos is clearly aware of everyone’s concerns surrounding his fitness.
He was pictured at a Glasgow gym yesterday alongside fellow countryman and Gers team-mate Juan Alegria and a fitness coach taking part in a session.
While it will take a lot to win back Van Bronckhorst’s faith, it seems he is prepared to at least put in the graft required to get himself in better shape.
Whether the club decide the time is right to sell Morelos remains to be seen with just over a week remaining before the transfer window closes.
Rangers risk letting him stay for a further nine months and then leave for nothing at the end of the season, with the player permitted to speak to clubs this winter without the club’s permission.
Morelos has already been linked with a number of clubs this summer including Leciester City, Besiktas and Sevilla, with the latter reportedly eyeing a pre-contract deal in January.
According to The Athletic, the La Liga side have registered a strong interest in the striker but are plotting a way to bring him to Spain on a free transfer rather than coughing up a substantial fee.
It would be a major blow to Rangers, who would preferably want to sell at the value they believe he is currently worth.
However, with the relationship between Morelos and the club taking a turn for the worse, will that force Rangers decision to sell?
How will this situation affect contract talks?
With his current deal expiring next summer, Van Bronckhorst recently confirmed that contract talks had begun with Morelos and his representatives.
He said: “We are in talks esepcially with players who will come into the last year of their contracts. In the last year attention will come to your players but so far the interest we have in our players is not very high.
“But in football you never know, you just have to wait and see what happens in the future.
“We are working hard with Ross Wilson to make sure we are ready and making sure we get in the players we want.”
However, those discussions with Morelos have now been placed firmly on hold.
What does his immediate future at Ibrox look like?
There’s no doubt Morelos has a mammoth job on his hands to get back into the starting line-up, but is he willing to fight for his jersey?
Summer signing Antonio Colak has taken his place in the side and will continue to lead the line after silencing his early-season critics by scoring four goals in his last five matches.
Morelos knows he will need to get his head down and put the hard work in to get back into the type of shape required to play for Rangers, with former Ibrox striker Kris Boyd describing his current weight “a disgrace”.
He is clearly going about his day-to-day business in an unacceptable way for an elite footballer plying his trade at one of the biggest clubs in Scotland.
The likes of James Tavernier, Connor Goldson, Steven Davis and Allan McGregor will undoubtedly be part of the influential player leadership group Van Bronckhorst was referring to and if those senior figures are standing firmly behind their manager then it’s difficult to see a way back for Morelos.
Fans will hope they haven’t seen the last of Morelos in a Rangers shirt but anyone who doesn’t feel the player needs a serious wake-up call should consider whether he is going to be a positive influence on the dressing room going forward.