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Why Rangers should avoid making Tillman's move permanent this summer

Posted on May 15, 2023

Malik Tillman looks to have played his last game for Rangers this season, with the Bayern Munich loanee having been ruled out of the final Old Firm match this season courtesy of a hamstring injury.

The Gers hold an option to buy the attacking midfielder from the Bavarian giants, but would it be worth doing so?

The USA international is proving a divisive figure among the fanbase, with some supporters insistent on turning his temporary stay in Glasgow into a permanent one. Tillman turns 21 in late May so it must be remembered that he’s still a young player with bags of potential.

The Nuremberg-born youngster netted his first goal for the Gers against Belgian side Union St-Gilloise back in August, as Rangers overturned a 2-0 deficit to advance into the Champions League playoff round with a 3-0 win at home under Giovanni van Bronckhorst.

The opening goal against St Johnstone at Ibrox four days later was his second in as many matches, and it appeared as though the signing of Tillman looked a real coup. However, he would then go two months without a goal and only contributed two assists in that time.

He set up Ryan Kent to add the gloss to a 4-0 thumping Rangers gave Hearts at Tynecastle back in October. But, more importantly, set up Antonio Colak’s decisive goal against PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands, which ultimately delivered Champions League football.

Pivotal goals came against Motherwell, scoring the opener at Fir Park in a 2-1 win, and Hearts where his sole goal proved the difference at Ibrox in November. However, half of his league assists this season (2) came against Hibernian in Michael Beale’s dugout debut.

Under the current manager, and in his particular system and style, we’ve arguably seen the better of the 20-year-old. However, Bayern will be looking for a big fee and one that Rangers would probably be struggling to justify.

Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos are two players rumoured to be leaving Govan on free transfers this summer. The Gers will therefore look to invest in a new winger but, perhaps more notably, a new number nine and guaranteed goalscorer, which won’t come cheaply.

Two goals against Motherwell, three against Dundee United and solitary strikes against Ross County, Hearts and Partick Thistle in the Scottish Cup since Beale took the reigns doesn’t necessarily equate to a suspected £5m.

While 14 goal contributions in 22 league starts looks like a solid season, the harsh reality is that the Gers could sign a player or two that is capable of producing those numbers for a fraction of the price.

Todd Cantwell signed from Norwich City in January and looks to be a bargain buy already. The 25-year-old Englishman has equalled Tillman’s assist tally for the season (4) and has bagged three goals in 1,007 fewer minutes of action than his teammate.

If they can arrange another loan or permanent transfer by a smaller fee than the quoted £5m then Rangers could go ahead. However, re-signing Malik Tillman would arguably be haulting Alex Lowry’s progress even further. The 19-year-old turns 20 in June and arguably ought to be given a chance, one that would come easier if Tillman doesn’t rejoin Rangers.

As a Rangers player you are ultimately judged over 38 league games, with the most important of those coming against bitter rivals Celtic. Malik Tillman hasn’t registered a single goal contribution against the Hoops this season over three competitions, while his two worst rated league starts came against the champions.

The Hoops went down a similar route themselves, of ‘try before you buy’ when Cameron Carter-Vickers and Jota arrived from Tottenham Hotspur and Benfica respectively last summer.

However, last season, the American defender and Portuguese winger proved their worth and subsequently turned their loan deals into permanent contracts in Glasgow’s east end.

Had Rangers got the better of Celtic in either cup competition or pipped them to the Premiership title and Malik Tillman played a key role, there may be a different argument.

But this summer there will most likely be an overhaul of playing personnel in Govan and Tillman ought not to be included in those plans given the expensive price tag that he holds.