As part of a weekly piece, I’d like to reflect on players who should have been better for us – with everything that’s went on in the past 5 years, and the barrels we’ve scraped in terms of players in the shirt, we may even find that some of these “failures” will be seen in a different light!
To begin, let’s try to remember Dragan Mladenovic. Or at least all share the horror to know we’re not alone…
Mladenovic was a tall, lazy looking type of player who seemed pretty impressive in clips circulating around the time of his signing in August 2004. The captain of Red Star Belgrade, he cost us £1.1m and was described by Barry Horne, who I’m sure was Wales assistant manager at the time, as the “Serbian Zidane”. Alex McLeish was convinced we’d signed a free kick specialist who would enhance our midfield.
And not a Rangers fan who witnessed him didn’t ask “how did this guy get caps for Serbia?”.
I have something of a weak spot when it comes to judging midfielders whose job it is to sit in front of a defence and dictate play. I neither want nor expect a player who will run all day, charge into tackles and be the mythical “enforcer” so many fans cry out for, but I also put too much stock into the player who reads the game well and keeps the ball moving for his team. I’ve seen players do that job, but not very effectively, and find myself defending them because I believe the role is very important. And due to that, I really wanted Mladenovic to be that player, and to be given more of a chance when ultimately he was a guy who looked completely disinterested. We had a manager who was trying to build a physical, direct team and was also far too fond of a 4-4-2 with strikers in wide areas and long balls from the back. Mladenovic had no chance of fitting in at Rangers at that time, even if he’d wanted to.
My most vivid memory of him playing is a game at Ibrox where he barely touched the ball and spent the entire game looking up as Marvin Andrews and Ronald Wattereus got more touches than anyone else on the park and just launched it at every opportunity. I have no doubt games like that were part of the reason he just seemingly chucked it. He played in around 7 league games for us, along with Champions League qualifiers – I would imagine most fans have no real memory of his performances at all.
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The way he left, released after a loan spell at Sociedad with a hefty pay-off then re-signing for Red Star that same day after only a year of a rather hefty four-year contract certainly never endeared him to the fans either. Given his stock before we signed him and good performances for Serbia, there must have been a player there somewhere, but he certainly never showed up for us, and whilst the outlay will look like a pittance in modern football terms, it was an expensive mistake at a time where we could barely afford yet seemed prone to making them.
There were a number of signings around that time which are remembered as very poor – think about that for a minute. Time tends to help you forget the weaker performances and the special moments are what dominate your memories, yet a player like Mladenovic has no Rangers fan who witnessed him playing who would say “he wasn’t that bad” or “Ah, I remember his performance against such and such”. My hope that he’d be a good player at the time is probably about as positive as it gets. Not quite the epitome of our poor transfers around that time, but certainly in the top 5 of utter disappointments.
I’d love to hear your memories or nightmares about Dragan Mladenovic, and any suggestions for players you’d love to discuss – please tweet us on @rangersnewsuk with your thoughts!