Giovanni van Bronckhorst eyes new contracts for key duo

As he approaches his first transfer window as Rangers manager, Giovanni van Bronckhorst has set out the parameters of how he wants business to be conducted.

By Stephen Halliday
Wednesday, 15th December 2021, 6:00 am

While he will ultimately look to start putting his own imprint on the first team squad at the Scottish champions in terms of recruitment, the Dutch coach’s immediate priority will be to retain the cream of those players he inherited from Steven Gerrard.

To that end, van Bronckhorst is conscious of the admiring glances from the English Premier League being cast in the direction of midfielder Joe Aribo and winger Ryan Kent.

Both players are entering the final 18 months of their current contracts with Rangers and may well be the subject of bids next month.

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Joe Aribo and Ryan Kent are both entering the final 18 months of their contracts

But as he plots his strategy with sporting director Ross Wilson ahead of the window, van Bronckhorst has made it clear he sees Aribo and Kent as integral to his longer term plans.

“If you play really well, of course you have interest in your players,” said van Bronckhorst. “I want to have my players performing really well, when they do that with a club like Rangers then interest will come.

“But of course we will look into the contracts as well. They (Aribo and Kent) are two important parts of the team and I’m very positive about them. I think the club is also very positive about them as well.

“Eventually, when you’re both happy you can sign a new deal. We have to see in the coming months how we progress with them.

“We have quite a lot of meetings with Ross Wilson so we know what we want to do - and in which areas - if something happens. So in that way we are already preparing for the transfer window.

“It’s always good to have the squad you want at the end of the window. It’s never good when at the end of the window you have a lesser squad that you did when you went in. So the objective for us when the transfer window ends is to have a quality squad.”

Another player van Bronckhorst is likely to be backing for a new deal is Scott Arfield who is out of contract next summer. The 33-year-old midfielder may be entering the veteran stage of his career but has made a strong impression on his new manager since van Bronckhorst took charge three weeks ago.

“I like Scott,” he added. “I already knew some players, I didn’t know Scott really well. Of course, I’d seen some footage.

“That’s why it’s important for me to be on the pitch with the players, look in their eyes, see their qualities – in training sessions but also in games.

“I think Scott is a player who can really use his strength in the system we play. For me, he doesn’t have to play differently than he is used to. He can just play in the role that suits him.

“If you have that in your team and players can play in a natural way, they are always more effective.

“In the last games, he played really well. I’m really happy with the players and the task we are giving them in games – offensively but also defensively. Scott is doing really well with the things we want him to do.”

Van Bronckhorst will look to extend the unbeaten start to his tenure when Rangers continue their Premiership title defence at home to bottom of the table St Johnstone on Wednesday night.

Last season’s double domestic cup winners are likely to sit in and try to frustrate the Scottish champions.

“It doesn’t change our mentality,” insisted van Bronckhorst. “For me there is no difference if you play against a team who will press you high up or defend really deep.

“I think our mentality always has to be the same with the way we want to play the game.

“Of course, the difference will be that tactically you will have to do something else, but we have prepared the team well.

“We are confident we can create chances against St Johnstone tomorrow night and that’s what it’s all about.”

While his primary focus is on a hectic domestic schedule, van Bronckhorst has welcomed the Europa League knockout round play-off draw which will see Rangers face Borussia Dortmund in February for a place in the last 16 of the tournament.

A mouth-watering tie has an added layer of intrigue for van Bronckhorst through the presence in the star-studded Dortmund squad of 19-year-old American midfielder Giovanni Reyna, named after him by his former Rangers team-mate Claudio.

“Gio sent a text straight to my eldest son (Jake) when the draw was made,” smiled van Bronckhorst. “They are almost the same age.

“It was good to be drawn against him. I think it’s a special moment for both of us, knowing each other. I’ve known Gio his whole life.

“We visited him one and a half years ago and watched one of the Dortmund games. I’ve already been in contact with his dad Claudio. We are good friends and hopefully he can come to the games as well.

“All in, it’s a very special moment for both of us. But being the professionals we are, we want to be the best for our clubs. That’s normal. But for me it is really special, because I have known Gio for his whole life.

“It's a very exciting draw, not only for me but for the team and for the club. Playing against a top club side in Europe will be a great test for us. It will give us the chance to play two good games against a quality opponent.

“It’s going to be really hard but you want challenges in life and also in football. You want to compete with the best and we are able to compete with the best now.”