MANY of football's big transfer stories are peculiar, tangled affairs. We've just witnessed another of them this week . . .

the strange case of Marseille's Brahim Hemdani leaving the south of France for Rangers.

No fair observer should doubt Hemdani's quality, certainly not before having the decency to watch him play. None the less, the predictable hyping of this Algerian's arrival at Rangers masks a peculiar turn of events which rings some familiar alarm bells.

Rangers - or to be more specific, David Murray - have got into a familiar routine of treating one of Scotland's main tabloids as a kind of acquiescent in-house rag, within which the club can soup-up certain initiatives, mainly transfer stories. This week with Hemdani, we witnessed another classic example of it.

Rangers even arranged for a photograph to be had of a sun-splashed Martin Bain, the club's chief executive, shaking hands with a slightly bemused-looking Hemdani in the south of France. The story was duly given glorious packaging about the Ibrox club "winning the race" and "fighting off bids" for the "pounds -4m Hemdani".

There were two aspects which were odd about this.

First, given the alleged hectic race to sign Hemdani, was the number of times in the past two months when the player had been offered to Celtic.

The second strange aspect about the Hemdani story was the pounds -4m hoopla surrounding him. In fact, the Algerian cost Rangers nothing. . . the glitter of pounds -4m obviously referred to the salary he will receive at Ibrox. Yet even that figure - presumably pounds -20,000 a week over four years - doesn't tally with the far more modest wage requirement with which Hemdani was repeatedly offered to Celtic.

After receiving at least three offers of Hemdani in the past two months, Martin O'Neill, the outgoing Celtic manager, decided that the defender was too erratic. Celtic, as with any deal, might live to regret this judgment, but it is only another example of how the movement of players around the Old Firm is rarely what is seems.

If you could believe some of the packaging behind Hemdani's arrival, the world was after him in "the chase".

Then you glance at the finer details. Hemdani is a 27-year old, of no international repute, who played just 11 times for Marseille last season. Moreover, in "the chase" for his signature, you then come upon a certain scrabbling around to come up with decent names: Bayer Leverkusen, Real Betis, Bolton . . .

As with Hemdani, very often the Old Firm are the twin targets of the same agent with the same player. In 2000 there was a Hemdani situation in reverse when Rangers were offered Joos Valgaeren, before turning down the player. Given the Belgian's injury-marked career at Celtic, you could argue Rangers called that one right.

More recently both Rangers and Celtic were offered Liverpool's disenchanted Stephane Henchoz. The Old Firm were also both after Craig Bellamy on loan before the Newcastle striker opted for Celtic.

From this most recent case, a number of aspects are clear.

First, the story of a foreign player moving to the Old Firm is rarely what it seems.

Second, as with Hemdani, the case is usually as much about a player wanting out, as a club wanting him in.

Thirdly, there are some club chairmen who really know the art of spin.