The Ibrox club pulled a shocking transfer coup last summer when Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard convinced Joe Aribo to shun all other juicy offers and join him in Scotland. To the surprise and even chagrin of others, the former Charlton Athletic star obliged and has fortunately seen that decision birth some memorable moments for both parties, particularly for Aribo who is enjoying a whirlwind end to a fantastic 2019.
The 23-year-old, beyond what any analyst could have predicted, has found himself at the cusp of stardom and his rapidly rising reputation means he will soon outgrow the limited confines of the Ibrox and indeed the Scottish Premier League.
Therefore, just a few months after Aribo became a Ger, it is pertinent to ask the million-dollar question: How much longer can Rangers and Steven Gerrard tempt Joe Aribo to stay in Scotland?
Switching to Scotland in itself was an unpopular move. Aribo turned down interest from several clubs in the Championship and Premier League – as well as the offer of a new deal from Charlton – to link up with Steven Gerrard’s Gers.
Lee Bowyer, former Newcastle and Leeds midfielder and his boss at Charlton, was so stunned to find out that Aribo, one of League One’s finest talents last term, had quit the Valley for the Ibrox that he famously lashed out at the youngster saying:
“If he goes to Rangers that is not the right place for him to go for his football career.
“You have got Rangers and Celtic who are massive clubs, I get that. And I get that Steven Gerrard was a great player, so that’s an attraction. Those two things are the attraction – but not everything else.”
Fortunately, things have looked up for the Camberwell-born midfielder ever since. In an incredible 5 months that is the stuff of dreams, Joe Aribo has made his Europa League debut and scored a couple of Europa League goals; he has made his international bow for three-time African champions Nigeria and scored against 5-time World champions Brazil while holding his own admirably in a midfield choked by Real Madrid’s Casemiro and Bayern Munich’s Coutinho. Surely, the lad knows how to kick a ball around.
Within the last eight days, the midfielder, who has even been labelled by some as the ‘new Jay Jay Okocha’, has been immaculate in possession and graceful off it, barely putting a foot wrong, as Nigeria floored Benin Republic in Uyo before smashing Lesotho in Maseru to highlight what he’ll likely be adding to the Super Eagles for years to come.
Yet, while his progress is undeniable and his international future settled, Lee Bowyer’s words continue to snap at Aribo’s heels: is the Nigeria international where he ought to be club-wise for his huge potential to be fulfilled and to reach the highest height he can attain in Europe?
Make no mistake, Rangers are a huge club and have played a big part in getting Aribo further than Charlton would have. What more, under the surprisingly astute management of Reds legend Steven Gerrard, the Gers are providing a terrific challenge to Celtic’s title ambitions.
However, with all due respect to the Gers fans, Joe Aribo is gradually becoming a fish too big for Rangers to fry. Some of them know it. Gerrard knows it as well. That was why the 2005 Champions League winner said of Aribo:
“He can go as far as he wants. I hope he stays alongside me for many years, but he’s got the world at his feet.”
Though Aribo has committed to the Ibrox till 2023, even Gerrard must know that the Super Eagles star won’t stick in Scotland for ‘many years’ no matter how huge the attraction of the Old Firms is.
“The Rangers fans love him but his form and the goals have dried up a little in recent weeks (due to injuries and national team commitments).
“There was a tonne of interest from English clubs over the summer though and if he picks up over the coming months I’d imagine Rangers would have a challenge keeping hold of him,” he said.
As a mark of deep respect for Steven Gerrard, Joe Aribo may shun January transfer suitors and help Rangers in their bid to knock Celtic off their hallowed perch atop Scottish football.
However, by next summer’s transfer window, with another impressive league campaign under his belt, Aribo should be more than ready to hold his own in midfield for any of Europe’s biggest clubs.
And with the likes of Southampton, Nice and Bayer Leverkusen believed to be interested in him back when he was League One’s standout performer, Aribo should not be short of admirers now that he’s a Super Eagles regular. And nothing Rangers and Gerrard do would be able to hold him back.