Malik Tillman might’ve been at the centre of Rangers controversy against Partick Thistle, but there’s no doubt the box office Bayern loanee is taking centre stage at Ibrox.
The young American is now increasingly at the centre of every passing game and fast emerging as the man for Michael Beale’s side, both a matchwinner and an entertainer.
Whilst the 20-year-old’s strike against Partick Thistle is mired in controversy – Malik Tillman nicking the ball off the opposition defender to skilfully dribble around the goalkeeper and finish – the moment was quite brilliant.
This is a young player growing in confidence by the game, with an ability far surpassing just about anyone in Scottish football and that generational talent who comes to these shores. As Ian McCall said at full-time, this boy can play.
Tillman is a wonderfully graceful footballer who can nimbly take the ball in tight areas and find space where there appears to be none.
This is the preserve of the magic players, those who take every tight touch with precision and whose feet and mind appear to be one, two, maybe even three steps ahead of the opposition.
Malik Tillman emerging as Rangers’ key man
Against a spirited Partick Thistle, Malik Tillman looked every inch the much talked about Bayern Munich prospect and some of his control, directness and influence was extraordinary.
Had Tillman scored that goal in the closing stages of the match, where he mazily dribbled up the entire pitch, weaving through Partick defenders like they were dummies, before exhaustedly fluffing his lines, we’d have been talking about if or a long time.
Instead, we’re talking about that moment where Tillman’s Rangers goal was immediately wiped out by Michael Beale ordering his side to let Partick Thistle – aggrieved Malik didn’t let them play the ball back – score at the other end.
It’s just as well the game finished 3-2.
It’s a moment which has been earning the sportsmanship plaudits all week but after the game Michael Beale insisted the decision was about protecting the reputation of Malik Tillman.
He ain’t no cheat was the cry from inside Rangers and as Beale takes the pressure away from him, and the headlines, it allows Malik to enjoy the freedom of Scottish football without lazy tags being pinned on him.
It is smart management, and perhaps a solid relationship with Michael Beale – who is infatuated with Malik Tillman as a footballer – can be the secret to Rangers securing a £5m permanent deal for the Bayern kid in the summer.
Speaking of Partick Thistle, manager Ian McCall was sacked straight after the match.