Cult Rangers hero criticises treatment by Giovanni van Bronckhorst
Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images

Cult Rangers hero criticises treatment by Giovanni van Bronckhorst

Former Rangers defender Nikola Katic has criticised Ibrox manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst for his approach ahead of the Croatian’s summer Ibrox exit.

Signed in 2018 by Steven Gerrard, Nikola Katic was out on loan when Gio first took the reins at Ibrox with the centre-back spending last season with Hajduk Split in his homeland.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

This comes after a devastating cruciate ligament injury ruled the defender out of the legendary title-winning 20/21 season and was designed to get minutes into the big man’s legs.

But after returning to the club this summer, following a Croatian cup win and noble 2nd place finish in the HNL.1, Katic has since been shipped out to Swiss champions FC Zurich.

Speaking to the Athletic, Nikola Katic took aim at the approach taken by Giovanni van Bronckhorst over the summer and claims he could still do a job for Rangers now as the club continue to leak goals from open play and set pieces.

“They said we were to come back at maybe 80 per cent of our fitness but I was obsessed with my body fat as I wanted to come back 100 per cent,” said Katic.

“Day one was about me trying to prove myself to van Bronckhorst.

“It’s nothing bad but I felt I didn’t get a chance as we didn’t communicate. I asked his coaches whether they could walk me through their requests and what they expect from their defenders, but I didn’t think they were that interested and I never got that information.

“I played three 45 minutes in pre-season and I was happy with how I did. I made one bad pass against Sunderland but it wasn’t anything big.

“I expected to play against West Ham and Tottenham at Ibrox and was hoping everyone would be looking at me again, but I was the only defender who didn’t play.

Nikola Katic: van Bronckhorst never gave me a chance

“I was really disappointed, so I went to his office and asked him to just tell me what was going on as I didn’t think I deserved that after getting injured and trying to get back to help Rangers. If I played bad then fair enough, but at least give me a chance.

“He said he liked a different type of defender. I’m not Messi but I see the defenders doing typical defender things, not anything special or making the last pass.

“If someone is Virgil van Dijk then fair enough, but it is hard to watch the numbers of goals they are conceding right now as I believe I could have helped — especially with the goals from set pieces.

“It’s Scotland so a lot of the away games are physical no matter what you do and you need to have defenders to defend. I still think the I could help the club but the manager had a different opinion and I respect his decision. That’s football.

“I never cry but that day when people started calling and messaging me, I couldn’t stop. I flew back to Edinburgh and people saw me. They were saying I was a hero and that I shouldn’t leave.

“It was really difficult to leave as the support was amazing over the four years. Even when I was on loan, they wanted signed Hajduk shirts. It was a really big thing for me to be loved by the fans like that.

“I will always have a connection to Rangers. I said to (sporting director) Ross Wilson on my last day that I’ll see him in two years when he buys me back!”

Ouch. Giovanni van Bronckhorst finds himself under pressure at Rangers and its decisions like the one to let Nikola Katic go which could come back to haunt him if things don’t turn around.

At present, Rangers are coming off the back of two 4-0 skuddings and have looked unconvincing all season, with the Dutchman already five points behind in the title race.

Meanwhile, the SFA’s latest statement to Scottish football means Rangers fans can expect to look out their scarves this weekend.