Rangers wasted no time in the transfer window making moves as Pedro Caixinha looked to piece together his team. So far this summer the Gers have brought in nine players, but they’re not finished just yet.
It’s easy to understand, too; especially after witnessing the club’s humiliating defeat in the first round of Europa League qualifying when they were eliminated by Luxembourgian club Progrès Niederkorn.
There’s a belief that, despite bringing in attacking options, the squad is still lacking guile and pace in the final third. They sold Barrie McKay to Nottingham Forest earlier in the summer for £500,000 and are yet to replace him.
Earlier on in the summer it was believed the move was more a matter of when than if. But negotiations hit a brick wall. Hearts want £1million for a player who has one year left on his contract, whereas Rangers value him at around £600,000.
It has since been reported that the Glasgow giant were preparing a final take-it-or-leave-it offer. The Edinburgh side have already rejected £500,000; the last bid will need to be a lot closer to the Hearts valuation if there is to be any movement.
5 Skybet League 2 Players To Follow | FWTV by FootballWhispers
After a friendly draw with Marseille side at Ibrox, Caixinha said: “I think you know how many more players I want. We have our targets but the transfer window doesn’t close for a few more weeks.
“I won’t mention names but you [the media] identified two players and we need two more players.
“We’ll try to have them with us. If not the two, then at least one.”
The two players the manager is making reference to are Walker and Aberdeen midfielder Kenny McLean.
While Caixinha and the recruitment team at Ibrox are looking to get value for money, and there’s nothing wrong with that as such – if anything it’s admirable. But it is a strange stance to take when they have paid more for five of their summer signings.
They’ve taken gambles with players who haven’t experienced playing in the Scottish Premier League before and who may not adapt. But they’re dragging their feet over parting with £1million to secure the signing on an ideal winger for their system.
Caixinha needs as close to guarantees as he can get.
Walker, who can also play anywhere in the attack, scored 12 times in 24 SPL appearances last season. He’s tipped to be one of the future stars of the national team and there’s an opportunity, down the line, to make a profit on him. It’s a no-brainer, even at £1million.
Football Whispers’ resident Scottish Premier League expert Blair Newman believes Walker should have been a priority for Rangers this summer: “If Rangers aren’t willing to stump up £1million for him, especially considering what they’ve forked out for others this summer, then they don’t truly value the player enough.
“Walker should have been one of their priorities, their first acquisition of the window. He’s vital to Hearts and the deal only makes sense if all parties are comfortable with the fee involved.”
Newman went on to explain exactly why he’d be what many consider to be the missing piece of the Caixinha puzzle: “Walker was one of many players to break through at Hearts during a time of financial crisis. He shone when they were relegated to the second tier and has maintained a key role within the team ever since under two different managers.
“Former boss Robbie Neilson was more a proponent of direct play out from the back and his tactics were fairly straightforward, but Walker’s subtle skills came to the fore nonetheless. While slight, he has good technical ability which allows him to control and retain possession under pressure, as well as take on and beat markers.”
Walker can be the difference between a draw and a win, and has the ability to turn a blunt attack into a dangerous one.
His versatility gives the Rangers boss a number of options but if they really wanted to get the best out of him they would play him on the left of the 4-2-3-1.
It’s a position Hearts boss Ian Cathro has used him in since his arrival in Edinburgh and it’s a position he’s excelled in as Newman explains: “Since Cathro came in there appears to be more of a focus on a system and style that will bring the best out of Walker. Cathro has made use of the 3-4-2-1 system of late, with Walker used as one of the inside forwards.
“I’d say that is his best position. When allowed to play more centrally and with greater freedom, Walker has the awareness and movement to occupy dangerous spaces. He is also a very creative player who can pick a pass and isn’t afraid to shoot.”
If Caixinha is serious about strengthening his frontline, he needs to make sure their final bid is one that Hearts will accept for two reasons. Firstly, Walker, as a Rangers fan, is going to want to feel wanted.
Underhwelming offers aren’t going to convince him that the Gers are truly trying to make him a part of their team. And finally, if they wait a year in an attempt to sign him on a free they could be gazumped by a Premier League or Championship club. He may be a Rangers fan but money talks.