THE serious knee injury suffered by Nikola Katic during pre-season training may well have necessitated the signing of Leon Balogun by Rangers yesterday.

Steven Gerrard’s men have a raft of domestic and European matches coming up in the weeks ahead and he required back-up for George Edmundson, Connor Goldson and Filip Helander.

Yet Balogun, who yesterday signed a two year deal at Ibrox, is more than capable of establishing himself as a first team regular according to a former team mate who knows all about the intense pressure of representing one half of the Old Firm.

Beram Kayal, the Israeli midfielder who spent five years at Parkhead, played alongside the Nigerian defender at Premier League outfit Brighton and is confident he has both the ability and mentality required to shine in Scotland

The 6ft 3in 32-year-old was loaned out to Championship club Wigan back in January and featured in just 13 competitive fixtures in total during the 2019/20 campaign.

However, Kayal revealed how an injury, coupled with the form of Shane Duffy, Lewis Dunk and Adam Webster for Graham Potter’s side, limited his first team opportunities at the Amex Stadium and led to him dropping down a division to get a start.

“Leon is a very good central defender,” he said. “I rate him very highly. He is excellent on the ball and has presence. He has great drive, physicality and technique. He is a good fit for Scottish football.

“He has been unlucky with the game time he has had at Brighton. We have a few good players who can play in his position. We saw how good he was in his first season, but then he had a shoulder injury which put him out for a while. When he got fit again the team was playing well and it was difficult for him to get involved.

“But he is in his prime as a defender. He is a superb professional. He is always doing extra work on his game on the training ground. He is a good guy as well. He will be a great character for Rangers to have in the dressing room.

“He was at Wigan on loan last season and played well there. The run of games he has had since football restarted in England this summer will mean he is fit and help him do well at Rangers in the coming season. I wish him all the best there.”

Kayal added: “Obviously, Rangers have made progress in the last few years. I haven’t been surprised by that. That is what happens when you bring in a legend like Stevie G. They are building something very good there at Ibrox. 

“I know Connor Goldson. He was with Brighton when we were in the Championship. He is a great talent and I haven’t been surprised that he has done so well at Rangers in the last couple of seasons. But a team like Rangers needs more than three centre backs, they need four or five. Competition has to be high.

“But if Leon proves himself he should feature in the first team there. He is an international footballer who has played at a very high level in his career. He will be pushing hard to be in the starting XI in the new season.”

Many foreign players who sign for either Celtic or Rangers struggle to deal with the scrutiny they are under in Glasgow and the combative nature of the Scottish game and quickly move on after failing to make a significant impression.

But Kayal, who flourished in this country after moving from Maccabi Haifa in his homeland in 2010 and picked up four Premiership and two Scottish Cup winners’ medals, if confident Balogun will have no such issues.

The Berlin-born defender played for Hannover 96, Werder Bremen, Fortuna Dusseldorf and Mainz 05 in Germany before joining Brighton two years ago.

“Without doubt, Leon will be able to cope with football in Scotland,” said Kayal. “He has played in the Bundesliga, the Premier League and the Championship. He is also a Nigerian international as well and has a lot of experience playing for his country. That will help him when Rangers play in Europe.

“Rangers have good Premier League players in Jermain Defoe and Steven Davis. They need to have that level of player when they compete in Europe. But Leon has experience of continental football and won’t be fazed by playing in the Europa League.

“When I came to Celtic 10 years ago I knew how big a club it was. It was a great test for me to come in to a huge club like that from Maccabi Haifa in Israel. It is a big step for Leon going to Scotland. Rangers is a big club. But it is a win-win situation. I think it will be good for both parties.”

That said, Kayal, who is also on the lookout for a new club after leaving Brighton, still believes that Celtic have the quality and strength in depth they need to become the first Scottish club to win a 10th consecutive top flight title during the 2020/21 season.

“My spell in Scotland is a great memory for me,” he said. “I enjoyed my time. We started something there and I think they will finish it this season by completing 10-In-A-Row. I have been really pleased to see the boys continue to do so well.

“It hasn’t been easy for them to change manager from Ronny Deila to Brendan Rodgers and now the main man Lenny is back. Neil Lennon is a super guy, he is hungry, he wants to win. I have no doubt Celtic are going to do it.

“My dream as a footballer was always to play in the Premier League in England and I have done that with Brighton. But nothing in my career has been close to the level of love and support I received from Celtic supporters and the club itself. It was a great time for me and my family. I think that Leon will love Glasgow and love Rangers.”