The Rangers revolution is well underway. The Glasgow giants have already brought in five new players in a bid to strengthen their squad ahead of the 2017/18 season, where they will be hoping to mount a serious challenge to Celtic’s domestic supremacy.
Pedro Caixinha has drawn upon his extensive list of contacts and experiences managing many different clubs to target players he has, if not first-hand experience working with, a good knowledge of.
The Portuguese has returned to his home country to secure the signatures of Daniel Candeias, Dálcio and Fábio Cardoso, all of whom were on Benfica’s books at some point in recent years. He also snapped up the experienced Bruno Alves, who has 90 caps for his country, when the centre-back’s contract with Serie A side Cagliari came to an end.
Conscious to focus on local options who already know the Scottish Premiership, Rangers brought in former Aberdeen captain Ryan Jack, also on a free transfer, to bolster their central midfield options.
The transfers are unlikely to stop there. Caixinha will soon sign striker Alfredo Morelos, and having worked in Mexican football he is also reportedly set to sign Carlos Peña and Eduardo Herrera. Meanwhile, Heart of Midlothian star Jamie Walker has also been persistently linked with a move to Ibrox.
Here, Football Whispers assesses the quality of Rangers summer transfer activity so far.
One of the major issues Paul Le Guen experienced when he took the reins at Rangers was a lack of aerial strength in the centre of his defence. Karl Svensson, signed from IFK Göteborg in Sweden, was completely lacking the physicality required to adapt to the Scottish game.
When the French manager moved on, Walter Smith returned to the Ibrox dugout. And his first priority was to reinforce the back line with mature, robust professionals in David Weir and Ugo Ehiogu. From then on, the defence was noticeably better.
Caixinha appears set not to repeat the mistake Le Guen made when improving his defensive line, having sealed the signature of Alves. The Portuguese centre-back is, standing at just over six foot two inches, a towering presence who will likely take no time at all to adjust to the Scottish Premiership.
The 35-year-old demonstrated his aerial force most recently during a one-year spell in Serie A with Cagliari, in which he accrued the fourth-highest number of headers won per 90 minutes among all the defenders in the entire league.
Alves may not be the most sophisticated of central defenders, but he is intimidating, aggressive and exceptional in the air. In short, he’s tailor-made for British football, and he should drastically improve Rangers’ defence.
Candeias’ career path of late may not make for the most inspiring reading, with the last three seasons seeing him go out on loan to four different clubs in four different countries. However, upon closer inspection, he has been playing at a fairly high level of late.
The Portuguese creator spent last term with Turkish top tier side Alanyaspor, where he started 29 of his side’s 34 league games. He also had a hand in eight goals overall, scoring and setting up four apiece.
Candeias does not possess explosive pace, but he is confident dribbler with a sizeable portion of flair. He’s also a highly inventive operator who likes to roam and combine, making full use of his refined touch and intricate passing.
The 29-year-old has worked with Caixinha before during their time together at Nacional, so he shouldn’t take too long to settle at Rangers. This, along with his modest £700,000 transfer fee and aforementioned skills, make him a potential bargain.
Ryan Gauld was once one of the most promising young things in Scottish football. Having established himself as a precocious teenager with Dundee United, he was signed up by Sporting Lisbon in 2014. He spent the second half of the 2016/17 campaign on loan at Vitória Setúbal, where became temporary team-mates with Cardoso.
Speaking about the Portuguese centre-back, he said:
“First and foremost, he is a good defender – he knows how to defend. After that he is very comfortable on the ball. Rangers are a team that’s going to want possession all the time and build from the back. That’s one of his strong points I would say. I think he’s got all the attributes to fit in.”
Having already brought in the brawn in Alves, Rangers appear to have also added a touch of culture to their back line in Cardoso. While not afraid of a tackle, the player is also a positive distributor of the ball who’s comfortable in possession. In addition, at just 23 years of age, he has a good deal of upside.
Of all Rangers’ summer dealings thus far, Dálcio is perhaps the biggest gamble. Fortunately, the 21-year-old was only brought in on a season-long loan.
A versatile operator capable of playing almost anywhere across the frontline, the youngster is at his best when cutting in from the right onto his favoured left foot. He’s an audacious playmaker with an eye for a long-range pass and a subtle trick, but he’s also relatively untested having spent much of the last two years in Benfica’s ‘B’ team.
Still, without any transfer fee, he will provide options for Caixinha in attack. With that in mind, he may well prove to be a risk worth taking.
Jack is a known quantity within Scottish football. The 25-year-old was born and raised in Aberdeen, and came through the Dons’ youth system before making his first team debut for the club in 2010. Ironically, that debut came against the team he will – as of next season – play for.
The last seven years have been a mixed bag, however. At various times he was seen as one of the finest prospects in the country and touted for a Scotland call-up, at others he was lambasted by his own support for a lack of penetrative passing.
Nonetheless, Jack is a solid addition to a Rangers squad previously desperately in need of some midfield control. He will protect the back line and keep things simple, which could turn out to be just what Caixinha’s side require.
Considering all of this, as well as the fact that he came without a transfer fee, and the Scotsman is a sound addition.