When Joe Aribo joined Rangers in 2019, it was seen as the perfect place to continue his development except for Lee Bowyer, who believed the Nigeria international could have done better than Rangers.
“It is about progression for him. So it’s a shame if he gets pushed to somewhere where it is not going to benefit him in his football career,” Bowyer told the South London Press.
“If he goes to Rangers, that is not the right place for him to go for his football career.
“When people from England go and play for Celtic and Rangers, it is at the end of their careers. That’s because it is very rare you get a move from Rangers to the Premier League, and I don’t mean any disrespect by that.”
But three years later, Bowyer could have never been more wrong as the move has turned out to be a perfect one for Aribo.
It is important to note that while the Scottish Premiership is not on the same pedestal as the major leagues in Europe, the pressure was still on Aribo as it was his first year in the top-flight, and Rangers are a historical club.
However, he took it in his stride and settled in quickly at the club. Aribo did not take long before he got going at the Ibrox, scoring in his second game.
The brilliant start set the pace for the rest of the season, and at the end of his first year at the club, it was clear Rangers had a gem.
He won the club’s young player and goal of the season in his first year at the club, although Rangers failed to end their wait for a Scottish Premiership title.
It all changed, though, in Aribo’s second year as he played a key role to help the Gers finish unbeaten in the league, but more importantly, win their first Scottish Premiership title since 2011.
Aribo’s profile continued to grow following his performance in his second year at the Ibrox, and it was only a matter of time before he was linked with a move away from the club.
This has proven to be the case in his third year at the club. Although he has always shown his quality since he arrived in 2019, Aribo has taken his game to an unprecedented level this season.
He has been Rangers best player, and it will not be an exaggeration to say he is the best player in the Scottish top-flight this campaign.
The 25-year-old has scored seven goals and recorded three assists in the 25 league games for Rangers this season. But it is not the numbers that set Aribo apart; it is his all-round play.
Despite playing under two different managers in Steven Gerrard and Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, Aribo has remained a key player for the Gers.
He is involved in almost every Rangers attack. Although he is not the type of player that takes opponents on or make defence-splitting passes, he is effective in everything he does.
The former Charlton man is tidy in possession, an effective ball carrier, versatile, and great in getting into goalscoring positions- an example is his latest goal against Dundee on Sunday.
He averages 4.07 touches per 90 minutes in the opposition attacking area, while he has also made 18 shot-creating actions in seven Europa League games this season.
The Nigerian international is also quick with his feet, which is quite impressive for a tall guy. He has often been likened to former Barcelona midfielder Yaya Toure by Ezri Konsa.
Unfortunately for Rangers, though, Aribo’s impressive displays this season have come at a cost, with the Nigerian linked with a move this summer.
While he has proven Bowyer wrong, it is clear he has outgrown the Scottish top-flight, and he needs to test himself with the big boys.
Aribo has already shown he has what it takes to play with the big boys, considering his displays in the Europa League.
He has won the league with Rangers, which means there is nothing left for him to prove. A move to the Premier League in the summer will definitely raise his profile.
It is every player’s dream to play in the biggest leagues in the world, and that should not be different for the 25-year-old.
Although Rangers are one of the historical clubs in world football, their pulling power is not what it used to be because the Premier League is now every player’s dream destination.
It is why the coaches of the last two teams that won the Scottish Premiership title left in the middle of the season to take up a job with mid-table Premier League teams.
Brendan Rodgers left Celtic to take over at Leicester City while Steven Gerrard left Rangers this season to replace Dean Smith at Aston Villa.
These are the two biggest clubs in Scotland, yet both Rodgers and Gerrard jumped ship when an offer from mid-table clubs in the Premier League arrived.
Aribo needs to follow in the same direction and leave for the best league in the world this summer. His time at Rangers has been a success, but it is now time to go and play with the big boys.
Bowyer said that players found it difficult to get a move from Scotland to the Premier League when Aribo joined Rangers, but the Nigerian can prove the former Newcastle man wrong again this summer by leaving for the English top-flight.