While all the praise over Saturday’s wonderful Old Firm win has rightly been aimed at two of the most stellar performers in the form of Glen Kamara and goalscoring hero Connor Goldson, the display on the day we were actually the most impressed with was that of the quite superb Filip Helander.
One tackle, one interception, three clearances and two blocked shots sounds good enough, more than good enough, but it far from tells the full picture about the rise of the Swedish international who is quietly having the same impact on the team in his second season as star Croat Borna Barisic did in his.
Helander had a quiet and inauspicious start to life at Ibrox – indeed, his first season was injury-disrupted and his struggles to settle were never more obvious than that calamitous match at Rugby Park.
Most fans couldn’t fathom why Niko Katic had lost his place to this expensive flop, and for that first season, that would include us.
What a difference a proper pre-season has made to the ex-Bologna man, and he’s looking, in his wonderfully understated way, the best CB in the league.
He reads the game brilliantly, he knows when to attack, when to wait off, and his frustration at being pipped to the Swedish shirt by Brentford’s Pontus Jansson for the recent international break because he was injured at the worst time will be colossal.
Helander is on the very cusp of being Sweden’s first pick beside Man Utd’s Lindelof, and his performances this season in the SPL for his club have absolutely merited it.
When we had an early season look at Rangers’ best-performing defender, many were expecting it to be Leon Balogun, and a few would have gone with Goldson. No, by quite a distance all-round it was Helander, statistically, and from those early days he’s only gotten a lot better.
£3M is looking an absolute steal for what is looking a top-class defender, and this is another one ‘first season syndrome’ very much applies to and which once again vindicates Steven Gerrard’s signing of him.
What a defender he has turned to be for Rangers.