Rangers sporting director Ross Wilson has always gone about his business quietly but the Ibrox transfer guru has found himself slap bang at the centre of the Scottish football drama over the last few weeks.
It would be a lie to say the pressure wasn’t – and still isn’t – on the ex-Southampton man to deliver this summer after Rangers seen the league title slip away last season.
January moves for Man United kid Amad Diallo and Juventus loanee Aaron Ramsey just didn’t work out the way the club had hoped and Celtic took advantage to lift the title.
It was symbolic of a domestic complacency which plagued the club last season and ultimately cost the Gers title number 56 and direct entry into the Champions League.
Combine all of this with Gerrard having left, the Europa League Final having been reached and van Bronckhorst needing to put his own stamp on the squad and Rangers fans weren’t quite sharpening their knives but polishing them ahead of a tense and expectant summer window.
Rangers’ early season focus was on contract renewals
The early stages of Ross Wilson’s summer transfer period were dominated by a series of contract renewals, with questions remaining over deals for veterans Allan McGregor, Steven Davis and Scott Arfield.
These will remain unanswered until the end of the campaign when the league title is settled one way or another.
But the four-year deal handed to club stalwart and Rangers vice-captain Connor Goldson – despite everything in the media suggesting this wouldn’t happen – was a vital piece of business.
Had Rangers gone into the window Goldson down, his monumental return of 223 games in four seasons almost irreplaceable, it would’ve been a shaky start.
Announcing this deal – Ross Wilson calm and composed about the situation throughout – was the opposite.
As contracts rolled to an end, out went popular if not always available defender Leon Balogun to make way for Scotland international John Souttar with Andy Firth the other first-team name to depart.
From here, Rangers went on to assess what was lacking from the side last season and appear to have come to one conclusion and one conclusion only. Goals.
Ross Wilson and Rangers add goals to Ibrox frontline
In comes Antonio Colak (PAOK, £1.8m), Tom Lawrence (Derby County, free) and Rabbi Matondo (Schalke O4, £2.5m) in a flurry of activity that added three internationals to the squad and more importantly a combined return of 50 g/a for an investment of £4.3m.
Following them has been Malik Tillman on a loan with option-to-buy from Bayern Munich, the USA international teenager a top talent and someone clearly very highly-rated at the elite-level Bundesliga club, who are said to have inserted a buy-back clause.
But whilst these shrewd Ross Wilson signings have caught the eye in this window, it’s the director’s work in selling Rangers players that is making the biggest waves.
So much has been made about the player trading model at Ibrox, with the club failing to negotiate high value transfer fees even long before the events of 2012.
Since then, the club has watched Old Firm rivals Celtic sell a stream of top talents for megabucks to the Premier League with the club trying, and failing rather miserably, to do the same.
Up until Wilson’s appointment the Gers’ biggest outgoing fee since climbing back up the divisions was the £2.5m made from the sale of Josh Windass to Wigan. It looks paltry now.
Player trading tops £50m as Rangers and Ross Wilson break records
Initially Cedric Itten exited Ibrox for £1.5m to BSC Young Boys – with that fee largely used to fund the bulk of the Antonio Colak deal – and all the talk surrounded who’d be next.
It turned out to be Joe Aribo; the Nigerian international in the final year of his deal and Southampton coming a’knocking to help him realise his Premier League dream.
With a release clause of £10m in his contract, Rangers are said to have negotiated a creative deal that looks to the long-term, and could wind up banking the club over £10m in the future.
This is £6m with a series of add-ons rising to £10m and a sell-on clause that could help the deal reach substantial figures if Aribo impresses on the south coast. It’s Ross Wilson being Ross Wilson.
Then there’s the big story of the day – and the one driving our rivals mad – in Ibrox talent Calvin Bassey, said to be heading to Ajax in a deal that begins somewhere around £18.5m and ends close to £23m with that sell-on fee included [Rangers Review].
This is a remarkable deal given Bassey – in a move negotiated by Ross Wilson with his contract expiring at Leicester City – cost Rangers £230k only two seasons ago.
Combine this with the sale of Nathan Patterson to Everton only six months ago – for a £12m rising to £16m fee – and then there can be no doubts that the player trading model Ross Wilson so often mused about is well under way.
All of this means that from deals struck in the last six months alone, Rangers will recoup just over £50m whilst spending £4.3m.
Despite the grumbles of the naysayers – and at times I have been one of them – Ross Wilson is delivering on his vision for the club and is working financial wonders behind the scenes, providing reams of content for newspapers in the process despite barely making a peep.
It’s Wilson’s work making the headlines but as is always the case at Rangers, and as last season proved, it’s success on the pitch that the Ibrox director will be judged most harshly by the fans.
Meanwhile, one young player linked to Rangers appears to have turned down the opportunity to move to Celtic, according to reports.