WHEN Joe Aribo first signed a pre-contract agreement with Rangers in 2019, it made his then-manager at Charlton Athletic, Lee Bowyer, deeply unhappy. The central midfielder had options on the table from Premier League and Championship clubs, as well as Charlton, before ultimately opting for Ibrox.

“I worked so hard to get him to this situation he is in now,” lamented the former England internationalist. “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. 

“If he goes to Rangers that is not the right place for him to go for his football career.

“It doesn’t make sense on the football side. 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.”

Bowyer may have claimed his utterances weren’t disrespectful but they clearly were, as the intervening three years have proven. Rather than battling against relegation with a team at the lower end of England’s second tier, Aribo moved to a club where his talents could be nurtured.

The result has been remarkable. The 25-year-old now has winners’ medals from the Premiership and Scottish Cup, he has become a fully-fledged international for Nigeria, shone on the continental stage and scored in a European final and against Brazil. Not bad for someone moving to a footballing backwater.

Now it looks as though a move to Southampton is close to being pushed through, and Aribo has his reward for an impressive stint north of the border. A deal believed to be worth up to £10million is being thrashed out – a fine return, given that Aribo only has a year left on his current contract.

It’s a deal that seems to suit all the parties involved – Southampton get their man, Aribo gets a crack at a higher level and Rangers pocket a tidy sum – and it is arguably one of the most important deals the Govan club have struck post-2012.

Those who stride along the corridors of power at Ibrox often speak of the club’s player trading strategy and the requirement to buy low and sell high in the market. They’re right, too – in a country like Scotland where sponsorship monies are relatively meagre and the windfalls that accompany European success cannot be relied upon due to the often-precarious qualifying process, a successful player trading model can give the likes of Rangers and Celtic a fighting chance on the European stage.

Aribo will be the first player that Rangers have made a significant profit on in quite some time. He cost around £300k in compensation when he arrived and the club will make a healthy profit, should the transfer to St Mary’s go through. He will be only the fifth player to have been sold for a seven-figure sum since the club’s financial implosion a decade ago after Lewis Macleod (£1m), Josh Windass (£2.5m), Nathan Patterson (£16m) and Cedric Itten (£1.5m), and only the second player to have been signed and then sold on for a profit after Windass.

It's undoubtedly an area where Rangers have lagged behind in recent years and the transfer outlay by the club since 2012 is inherently unsustainable. The idea has been to run at a loss in the market in the short term to build a squad of sellable assets that somewhere down the line can be turned for a profit, and the funds can be subsequently reinvested in the first-team squad. Until Aribo’s move is finalised, though, this is little more than high hopes and gusto. Once the deal goes through, it becomes the first piece of evidence that Rangers are on the right track in creating a successful player trading model. Although there is still some work to be done.

It looked for all the world like Connor Goldson was going to leave for free this summer before the defensive mainstay agreed a new four-year deal last month. Ryan Kent and Alfredo Morelos – two of the team’s most valuable assets – are out of contract at the end of the season and could leave for nothing or at a heavily discounted rate. Even the potential value of Aribo’s transfer fee has been limited somewhat by his own contract situation and the inclusion of a buy-out clause.

If Rangers are to truly thrive in the transfer market, they simply must command fair fees for their top players. That means getting them tied down on contracts that work for the club and building a reputation as a team that can develop up-and-coming talents. Celtic have been able to spend heavily in the transfer market since Ange Postecoglou was installed as manager last summer precisely because they have a strategy that allows the club to move players on for decent sums when richer clubs from down south come calling.

It is a strategy that Rangers must seek to emulate and they appear to be doing that – in the long term, at the very least. John Park, the architect of Celtic’s scouting programme that unearthed gems such as Virgil van Dijk and Victor Wanyama – players that the Parkhead club sold for a huge profit – joined the scouting department at Ibrox earlier this week, and his appointment looks like a shrewd piece of business. If he can discover players of a similar calibre for Rangers, then any potential transfer income is likely be spent in the right places. The club’s focus on hoovering up talented youngsters for the B team, too, points to a long-term focus on creating a sustainable transfer model.

The high heid yins at Ibrox will be hoping that Aribo’s sale marks the beginning of a new era in Govan, where players can spend a few years in Glasgow’s south side before moving on for a healthy profit. But it is now down to the executives at Rangers to show that this is the case – to prove that they can repeatedly sell their prized assets at fair market value – and that Aribo’s departure bucks the club’s transfer trends of the past decade.