To the seemingly inevitable news of Joe Aribo’s impending sale, reaction has been mixed from fans.
Some wish him the best and are quite happy with what he gave and Rangers’ £10M profit on the Nigerian international, and Joe himself has been a good egg for the club and did a big favour for Ibrox Noise some years ago we never forgot.
However there’s another school of thought that does think Joe rather downed tools on his return from Africa at the start of the year, and while we’d never say a bad word about a good man, it is pretty clear Aribo’s head was turned by the exit of Steven Gerrard and he never got going again once he came home from Cameroon.
He had a fine time at the AFCON, managing an assist or two, and his stock certainly rose further – but his return to action at Ibrox never saw the level of his performance come close to regaining that which he had pre-Xmas.
Up till the winter break, Aribo was absolutely, completely, and totally phenomenal – he was by a distance the best performer in the SPL and was going into the £35M territory such was his outstanding contribution.
He’d gotten better and better that first half of the season, and until the break began, he was well on course for POTY in every category.
But whether Gerrard’s exit eked gently at the back of his mind or something disrupted him in Africa, the same player did not return from the traditional winter tournament.
His level dropped, his work ethic wasn’t as aggressive, the goals and assists (not that he was prolific in truth there) dried up and he didn’t look as involved in matches.
Ibrox Noise was the first to call that out, to suggest he wasn’t at his best, and we did so with a heavy heart such was our fondness for him.
And then a few weeks later in a presser he confirmed he wasn’t at his best, so at least he was being honest with us and himself.
But he never regained it.
His level did marginally increase towards the end of the season, and of course he has a UEL goal to be proud of and remember forever, but the stunning quality he showed up till new year was just not there anymore.
If he is to shock us all and stay, defying every piece of info we have on the situation, we’d love to see the Aribo he was the first half of the season – the one in the second half was certainly not the same.
But the chances are slim of him staying and if/when he does leave there’ll be no bitterness from us.