It all began with Genk’s Ianis Hagi, and before long, Rangers were absolutely plundering the Belgian market.
Kemar Roofe came in from Anderlecht, Fashion Sakala arrived from Oostende, and Nico Raskin popped in from Standard Liege, before Belgian-born and raised Cyriel Dessers appeared as well.
In short, after Rangers spent so long with League One and the lower Championship under Warburton, Belgium has now become a favourite plundering ground for Ibrox, with the latest acquisition being our manager, hailing as he does with successful spells at Genk and Brugges.
Belgium is a very, very good place to go. The country has produced some of the best football players the world has ever seen – Lukaku, De Bruyne, Witsel, Mertens, Kompany, Courtois – that this incredible generation of players never won a thing or indeed came close is a sad testament to the mismanagement of the national team and the egos in there.
And of course big Tam Buffel came from Belgium as well, a painfully underrated player who we think was the only real ‘mistake’ Walter Smith ever really made, in showing no interest in the terrifically-talented playmaker who just couldn’t get a game once Walter was home.
But the quality from there is undeniable. Belgium has a glut of strong teams – Anderlecht, Liege, Brugge, Genk, Gent, the return of Union Saint, Antwerp, Cercle Brugge, you name it – there is no shortage of fine teams from this league.
And Rangers’ new manager is from that same stable – it’s arguably, along with Portugal, part of the top of the second tier of European leagues. France, England, Germany, Italy and Spain in tier one, with Holland, Portugal and Belgium in the second tier alongside Scotland these days thanks to our coefficient.
But aside Rangers and Celtic, the SPL has no quality in depth. Belgium is filled to the rafters with top quality sides, and Clement is clearly a top-quality manager who couldn’t have had a better stable of education to go into this part of the game.
But the point is Rangers have spotted this market, this fairly inexpensive market and have tapped it well.
Hagi, Roofe, Sakala and Raskin, plus Dessers – and now Clement himself.
There’s clearly a pattern in there…