Why Rangers should reignite their interest in Chancel Mbemba
The 25-year-old had slipped down the pecking order at St. James’ Park when he was searching for a new club last summer and both the Scottish giants wanted to sign him, as revealed by the player in his pre-match press conference ahead of Rangers’ trip to Porto on Matchday 3 of the UEFA Europa League.
However, Rangers opted against firming up their interest in the Congolese star and Mbemba departed Tyneside to join Portuguese heavyweights FC Porto last summer.
Mbemba, though, hasn’t had the best of times since his departure from Newcastle at the end of the 2017-18 season, with the centre-back enduring an injury-marred debut campaign at his new club in Portugal.
The 25-year-old was damned to long spells on the sidelines last year and he managed only 8 appearances for Porto in all competitions.
To that end, things have hardly taken a turnaround in the positive direction for Mbemba this term. The former Anderlecht man has found his involvement limited to only three substitute appearances in the Primeira Liga in what has been yet another disappointing start to the season for the powerful centre-back.
The 25-year-old is under contract at the Estadio do Dragao until 2022 but it is hard to envisage him staying for that duration if he continues to struggle for regular minutes on the pitch.
Mbemba is clearly not the first-choice at the heart of the defence at his current club, with manager Sergio Conceicao preferring the partnership of Pepe and Ivan Marcano ahead of him.
Meanwhile, Rangers went into the international break with a narrow advantage over Celtic atop the standings in the Scottish Premiership but the Gers have been leapfrogged by their Old Firm rivals following 1-1 draw against Hearts this weekend.
Steven Gerrard’s side are only behind on goal difference but they can ill-afford such slip-ups if they are really serious about ousting Celtic from the domestic throne come the end of the season.
Despite having secured deals for as many as ten new players in the summer, Rangers should continue their pursuit of fresh targets in a bid to add more quality to their ranks in the near future and Chancel Mbemba, who is an experienced campaigner in the right age bracket, could be an incredible signing for the Gers in January or next summer.
Rangers brought in the likes of Filip Helander and George Edumdson as a part of their summer overhaul to compete with the likes of Nikola Katic and Connor Goldson for a place in central defence but neither has managed to convince Gerrard to a large extent.
Edmundson has largely found himself on the periphery of the playing eleven, with Gerrard rotating Helander and Katic to partner Goldson at the back.
Truth be told, Helander, Katic and Goldson have all impressed in patches but they have shown a tendency to blow hot and cold on certain occasions and bringing in a proven performer like Mbemba would certainly make sense.
With Mbemba openly speaking of Rangers’ interest in his services last summer, one cannot help but wonder as to why the Gers didn’t push harder for a deal, particularly when Newcastle were keen to let him go and the centre-back had the CV to back it up at Ibrox.
However, his current situation at Porto doesn’t look all that promising and given that Mbemba is at a stage in his career where he would ideally like to play regularly every week, Rangers should not hesitate to go back in the market for his services.
Given that he still has plenty of time remaining on his contract, Porto’s asking price could be a stumbling block but Rangers could strike gold if they manage to negotiate a suitable deal to bring him to the club.
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All in all, Chancel Mbemba has the experience to come through the door at Ibrox as an upgrade on the likes of Helander.
Rangers reigniting their interest in his services would certainly transform the Gers into a more formidable defensive unit, as they look to push on for silverware under the stewardship of Gerrard.