Regardless of allegiances, no one will forget Alfredo Morelos.
The Colombian striker will leave Rangers this summer as the Ibrox club’s all-time leading scorer in European competition. He will also leave having received the most red cards in the club’s history.
Two stats that describe the box-office six-year spell served by the 26-year-old.
It’s hard to think of another footballer who has polarized opinion in Scotland more in recent times, flip-flopping between irreplaceable to unreliable on countless occasions.
From title wins and playing in Europe’s top-tier defences, to squad losses and kitman battles, BBC Scotland shows the good and the bad of Morelos – a player who epitomizes the very bad. in Scottish football.
‘He will be remembered happily’ – the good
“When the opportunity is there, I score,” Morelos said when he signed from HJK Helsinki in the summer of 2017.
He fulfilled that promise 124 times for the Rangers, finishing as their top scorer in four of his six seasons.
Not a bad record, considering only one of his strikes came from the penalty area. Factor in the 58 assists he also provided, the striker has a goal contribution ratio of 0.87 per 90 minutes.
Morelos posted the numbers despite his Ibrox career starting in the worst possible way, after being hooked on the half-hour mark on his first start in one of the club’s most embarrassing nights.
The striker was included in the starting line-up for the trip to Luxembourg to face minnows Progres Niederkorn in the Europa League qualifiers, a tie the Ibrox side went on to lose 2-1 on aggregate.
If you said that night Morelos would become Rangers’ all-time leading scorer in Europe, while former manager Pedro Caixinha stood in a bush apologizing to the traveling support, it’s highly doubtful if anyone would believe you.
But a record-breaking 29 goals in 63 European games followed. The Colombian has a simple knack for rousing himself for big occasions under the lights. He showed that he can single-handedly bully top-class defenses.
Outstanding performances against the likes of Borussia Dortmund in the run-up to last season’s Europa League final showed that, but injury kept him out of the showpiece in Seville, where Rangers suffered a gut-wrenching defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt.
To think that Morelos qualified for the final last May would be a ‘what if?’ for Rangers fans.
At the domestic front, despite changing form at times, Morelos has been key to the success achieved under Steven Gerrard, who has helped the striker reunite with a coaching staff that includes the current boss of Ibrox Michael Beale.
The striker’s game has become more than just scoring. Before Gerrard’s appointment, Morelos had never assisted more than eight goals in a season. Under Gerrard, he hit double figures for two goals and assists in three consecutive campaigns.
A combined total of 30 goals and assists in all competitions came in the 2020-21 title-winning season. For that contribution alone, Beale believes he will be remembered with “true love” by the Rangers support.
“He was part of an unbeatable side that won the league,” he said. “That won’t happen for a long, long time – or even.
“We paid £800,000 for an unknown boy from Helsinki and now he is known in every Rangers household. For that fee, Alfredo got more than Rangers paid. I will remember a lot of work with him.”
‘Full of continuity’
Despite Beale’s kind words, it was only last week that the Rangers manager lamented the striker for his 25-minute cameo against Aberdeen. “You saw a difference when Alfredo arrived in terms of strength. But not a positive difference.”
Concerns about health, effort and behavior are a common theme. If Rangers were working on a ‘three strikes’ policy, Morelos would have been lucky in the last two seasons.
In March 2019, Gerrard said he could not “defend him any more” after his fifth red card of the campaign away to Celtic. In August 2020, he said he only wanted “players who are hungry for the shirt” after leaving the forward against Kilmarnock.
At the start of this season, Morelos was also left out of Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s squad against PSV Eindhoven, just a few days after being sent off for the eighth time by Hibernian.
That prompted high-profile criticism from former Rangers players. Kris Boyd called him “an obstacle”. Kenny Miller said he was “out of gear”. And, three months later, Neil McCann called him an “idiot” for appealing to Hearts fans.
It’s unusual for someone with little limelight off the pitch to create such a media circus with his actions on the field.
The only interview he gave here even ended in chaos when a chat with Sky Sports was misinterpreted, resulting in the broadcaster apologizing after it was first suggested that Morelos had accused Celtic fans of abuse him.
For a player who had never received a red card before arriving in Scotland, leaving with a club record eight was shocking.
More than half came in one season. In the same campaign, 2018-19, he finished as the top scorer in the league despite missing more than 20% of the games due to suspension. Flailing arms and furious kicks became as common as his sliding knee celebration.
Morelos gave bullets to opposing players and fans. Nothing more than a Celtic support that enjoyed a 12-game scoreless run in Old Firm derbies, including a final defeat in the 2019 League Cup in which he missed several chances and a penalty .
The Colombian went on to break his duck at the 13th time of asking in Rangers’ unbeaten 2020-21 Premiership victory, ending Celtic’s pursuit of a historic 10th in a row title.
Whether his impact on his team was positive or negative, Morelos alone made the fixture worth watching. With the ultimate antagonist Scott Brown also in the mix, we are truly spoiled. Halcyon days.
But away from the on-field drama, the Cerete-born striker is a “loveable character” – someone “full of persistence” and “always trying to put people at ease,” according to former team-mate Andy Halliday.
The former Ibrox midfielder too Revelation that Morelos wrestled daily with the late kitman Jimmy Bell. With any player, these are the stories that make you question the truth. In Morelos, there is no need to think twice.
His career at Rangers may have come to an unfortunate conclusion, but on Wednesday, the home fans put his mistakes to one side and bid farewell to a player who has contributed so much to recent success.
The rest of Scottish football must also mourn the loss of an unforgettable figure. Love him or loathe him, the Premiership has lost a man who embodied the bonkers world of our game by providing six years of chaos, controversy and quality.
‘Always a legend’ or ‘total lack of discipline’ – your views
Alex: Morelos stepped up and scored goals at key times. He just doesn’t have enough consistency or the right attitude. He was part of the 55 team, so he will always be a legend no matter what.
Billy: Morelos is a talented striker who has scored some important goals, but he almost lacks self-discipline and is guilty of missing out.
Andrew: Overall, I think Morelos is a good servant for Rangers. I know the last six months were a let-down and he reduced his contract, but over the time he’s been here, I think he’s done well and scored a lot of goals and now our top scorer in Europe.
Ronnie: For five years, Morelos was our icon. He is our main man. He could have made the difference in the Europa League final. Our top European scorer of all time, you cannot question his value. Great Rangers players are hated by opponents. Alfredo is very good. It’s sad that he’s leaving in these circumstances.