There was a time when the Celtic transfer strategy was said to be something Rangers should aspire to achieve.

Victor Wanyama, Fraser Forster, Virgil van Dijk, Stuart Armstrong, Moussa Dembele, Kieran Tierney; all examples of superlative business which quite rightly was the envy of the Ibrox boardroom.

Newcastle United v Liverpool FC - Premier League

The acqusition and sale of Virgil van Dijk is an example of the kind of transfer strategy both Celtic and Rangers should be trying to employ. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

A mixture of low-ball investments, smart multi-million-pound deals and giving youth an opportunity made Celtic’s central purse bulge due to smart management and a smarter sales team.

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But over the course of the last two and a bit seasons Celtic have been largely stripped of their assets, spent big on players who have not made the grade, and watched on as Rangers have built a thriving squad on the (relatively) cheap.

There are few players – Odsonne Edouard aside – in that Celtic team who could command the sorts of fees which we’ve seen them receive in the past.

They will argue that Calum McGregor, Kris Ajer, Chris Julien, Jeremie Frimpong and Ryan Christie should be on that list but on current form they really don’t deserve to be.

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Contrast that with Rangers, who in Alfredo Morelos, Glen Kamara, Borna Barisic, James Tavernier and Niko Katic have genuine transfer potential which did not break the bank to sign.

In that mid-tier, the likes of Connor Goldson, Ryan Kent, Ianis Hagi and Filip Helander all represented significant outlays but are all almost certainly investments which could fetch the club a fortune.

These are genuine assets, players who still have room to grow and who are part of a team which is developing rather than regressing.

We’ve yet to see if those investments in the likes of Kemar Roofe and Cedric Itten will inspire the same kind of confidence but there’s nothing from the Gers’ previous deals to suggest that they won’t.

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Rangers fans will be hoping Swiss international striker Cedric Itten can come in, develop at Ibrox and be sold on for a considerable profit after winning plenty with the club. (Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Celtic in contrast have replaced their outgoing stars with players who will seriously struggle to command the sorts of fees we’ve seen them rake in in the past.

Not only that, but Neil Lennon has overseen the wastage of millions of pounds on players who – and you can put me on record here – will never cut it at Celtic.

Vakoun Bayo (£2m), Maryan Shved (£1.8m), Patryk Klimala (£3.6m), Boli Bolingoli (£3m), Ismail Soro (£2m) and Vasilis Barkas (£4.5m) [all Transfermarkt].

They also almost certainly overpaid for Albian Ajeti at £5m, even if the striker will score goals for them.

Celtic v Rangers - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership

Polish striker Patryk Klimala represented a significant outlay for Celtic and has yet to deliver anywhere near enough. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

That’s the bones of £20m by the way, the fee reportedly received for Moussa Dembele.

 

Since Steven Gerrard has come in Rangers have spent around £30m in total on transfer fees [Transfermarkt].

Even beyond those investments Celtic have relied on expensive loan deals to bulk up a squad beginning to haemorrhage quality.

Filip Benkovic, Moi Elyounoussi, Shane Duffy and Diego Laxalt are all expensive loanees with the pressure on the latter three to deliver with little promise of a return other than trophies.

Celtic spent the best part of £5m on Vasilis Barkas, Rangers signed record-breaking goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin on a free.

Rangers v Dundee United - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership

Filip Helander represented a significant investment but it’s paying off for Rangers. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Classy international defender Filip Helander cost us £3m. They paid £2m to take Shane Duffy on loan for a year.

Rangers’ transfer strategy has been to identify holes in the squad and go out and secure the players best fit to fill them within a fixed budget. There’s strategy and insight here.

Celtic’s has been non-existent ever since Lennon took the reins.

Rangers are driven by a positive partnership between Steven Gerrard, a huge attraction for any young player, and Ross Wilson, a well-connected and talented sporting director.

Backed by a trusting board, Rangers have made shrewd investments into their playing squad, securing players on cut-price fees and convincing the hierarchy over substantial investments.

Celtic v Rangers - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership

These Steven Gerrard signings are a long way away from those of ex-Rangers boss Pedro Caixinha. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Whilst the Ibrox side are yet to silence the doubters by getting their hands on a trophy the development of this squad from domestic no-hopers to European competitors is absolutely there for everyone to see.

The players have developed alongside this too and we now look at our full complement. Winning back our status atop the Scottish game is the final piece of the jigsaw.

Whilst Rangers are yet to recoup any major fee on their investments – the £2.5m sale of Josh Windass standing as our biggest since 2012 – you get a feeling it’s only a matter of time.

Hibernian v Rangers - Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership

Rangers reportedly rejected £16m for star man Alfredo Morelos in the summer. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Rangers are keeping this squad together for a reason – as the rejection of £16m in the summer for Alfredo Morelos would suggest – but there will be major outgoings soon enough.

When that happens, it’ll no longer be the transfer strategy of Celtic which is the envy of Rangers; it’ll be Rangers who’ll be the envy of Celtic.

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