Nikola Katic joined Rangers in the summer from relatively unknown Croatian side NK Slaven Belupo, for around £2 million.

It was immediately clear why he commanded such a fee. 6ft 4′ and only 22-years-old, he offers physicality and a direct approach to defending.

Katic celebrates victory over Maribor alongside Andy Halliday. (Photo by MB Media/Getty Images)

His early performances even prompted Steven Gerrard to say he “loved” him, in a press conference.

However, all of a sudden, Katic disappeared from the side.

Rangers were all over the place at the back away at Spartak Moscow, and although the Croatian appeared the next week against Motherwell, that was the last we’ve seen of him in the first team.

That was well over a month ago now, with little to no word on why the star was being excluded. That is, until yesterday’s press conference.

The Croatian has only featured once since Rangers conceded four at Spartak Moscow. (Photo by ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

“Niko came in and was excellent from the beginning”, said Gerrard.

“As we expected with a young boy learning his way, he was going to have that little dip in form. I always knew as a manager at a certain point I was going to have to pull him out and protect him.”

“He’ll come back stronger, he’ll improve…and help us again”, Gerrard concluded.

Do these comments signal an imminent return?

The young centre-back will hope for an opportunity before the winter break. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Katic featured for the reserves on Monday, seemingly gearing him up for first team action at some stage this month.

However, what is clear from these comments, is that Gerrard isn’t going to be rushed with the centre-back.

Despite the calls from fans for his reinstatement, he insists that Katic needs time.

Young or old, players are under the microscope when they pull on the Rangers jersey. Gerrard wants to make sure his centre-back is ready for that scrutiny before selecting him once more.

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