Alfredo Morelos: a little-known Colombian forward signed from HJK Helsinki to be backup to Kenny Miller and Eduardo Herrera by Pedro Caixinha. As ludicrous as it may sound today, that was something close to the truth.
Fast-forward until now and he is the main man in Steven Gerrard’s side. Derek McInnes intimated that we are a one-man team and whilst I loathe to agree with him, from an attacking point of view - whether we like to admit it or not - I do believe we are. It’s quite remarkable just how important he is to this side. That’s not a slight on the rest of the players; there are a number of very good footballers in this Rangers side. It’s more of a compliment to Morelos as there can be no doubt that he gives this team something different and not only that, he seems to elevate the level of the rest of the front five on any given day.
However coming off the back of last season, despite grabbing 18 goals and finishing joint-top scorer with Josh Windass, it felt like he had a lot to prove to his detractors amongst the support, especially those who were angry with him for the club not accepting the apparent bids from China. And of course, that miss against Celtic, some would not let it go and move on.
Having been kept by Gerrard and his coaching staff, there were two of the early qualifiers that made me think he could elevate his levels to those we are seeing at this moment in time. Osijek and Maribor away were the games in question. The Osijek match, I think was the one that gave the player his self-belief back. He played very well on the night and got the winning goal with the deftest of headers. The Maribor away game was a different job. But it proved that Morelos was ready to be the focal point and be a bully to defences. That night he was up against Marko Suler. He rag dolled him, for the want of a better expression and was a complete pest, wound him up and played a big part in Rangers qualifying. I think those two performances were standouts early on and they set the tone for him and gave the fans a glimpse of the player he is and could be in the future.
His season exploded from that point on, his performances have become more consistent, and with that you can see that his overall game become has more refined and he is becoming more mature within each game. He is willing to work hard for the team, and even if the goals do not come, there is no strops, no huffs or none of the histrionics we saw from him last season, he keeps going and works his backside off for the team. And, that’s not only becoming a benefit to him and his all-round game but the team have benefitted from that hunger and attitude from him on more than one occasion this season.
That was illustrated perfectly in the match on the 29th of December at Ibrox. While Ryan Jack was the match winner, and the team to a man were excellent, Alfredo showed just how good a focal point and team player he could be. It’s a theme when talking about him that the word bullying is used, in a football sense, of course. He was right on it, he gave Boyata – not for the first time – and Benkovic a torrid time, so much so the Leicester loanee went off injured before the first 45 had reached its conclusion. There weren’t many goalscoring chances for him on the day, but his style of play and the way he set out to go toe-to-to with the Celtic players was an absolute joy to behold. It was Daniel Cousin-esque at times. Of course, he would quickly become a marked man in the aftermath of that win.
The uproar to get him banned had reached fever pitch, mostly from the Celtic cheerleaders within the media. They painted the picture of him being a hot-headed thug, when the truth was that he had dished out some of what the Rangers team had to contend with in the past from Celtic players and they couldn’t handle it.
It was after that game, they - and I mean Celtic and their media friends - knew how good Morelos was. So it’s no surprise to me, given the shoddy way refs and certain media people in Scotland have treated him that he’s been given red cards since and banned for three matches.
His numbers from last season are up: 23 goals so far. He’s on course to finish top scorer in the league, and maybe he will even surpass Kris Boyd’s 31-goal haul in 2008/09. Also, to add to that, Morelos has scored seven winning goals for Rangers this season and the team have yet to lose a match in which El Bufalo has found the net. (Played: 18 goals: 23 wins: 16 draws: 2 losses: 0) Numbers can be used to prove anything you wish, but those aforementioned stats prove that it’s absolutely undeniable how important he is and has become and will be from now until the season’s end.
The media will continue to paint a false picture of the boy, the more he scores, the more the narrative will get nastier. They will link him with moves away, which if we are being honest, one would expect a summer departure – for big money to a decent standard of league. But you have to wonder how the club will handle the player’s departure never mind the fans that adore him.
However, the media have one thing spot on. He is the top man and Rangers will be nowhere near silverware without him. It just shows in the end how he and the manager turned a huffy, moody little boy into a man, a man who is good enough to lead Rangers to success.
It’s up to us fans and the club to enjoy Morelos while he’s still here and hope that he proves the assertion to be correct that he can be the man at the forefront of bringing silverware back to Ibrox in the not-too-distant future.