Barrie McKay - Just how good is he and can we keep him?

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It has been almost a year since I wrote a Gersnet profile on Barrie McKay – he’s such a special and interesting player but right now feels a good time to have an update with reported interest in him from RB Leipzig and several English Premier League sides.

Barrie was simply fantastic last season and was the star of the memorable Old Firm Scottish Cup semi final victory, being a constant threat and that beautiful goal to put us 2-1 up in extra time will live with me forever. In 48 games in all competitions last season he scored 9 times and created 13 assists, which is a decent return but he created so much more and his first touch helps us retain possession in tight areas.

Last season he signed a new contract but like Liam Burt he only signed an extension until summer 2018. I was relieved at the time that he had signed a new deal but would have liked a longer contract and apparently a longer deal was on the table which he declined in favour of a contract that runs out next summer.

Now there is apparent interest (though the club have denied there have been any formal offers) and we have a player with around 16 months left on his contract. This leaves us in a slightly precarious position; we are looking at offering Barrie an extended deal but unless he accepts this offer we are going to have to be serious about bids of around £5 million upwards.

If we rewind to the start of this season, Barrie started well in the early League Cup competition but soon his form started to really dip; at certain times it was hard to be in the stands when he was having an off game. The abuse that can come down on him at times is highly unhelpful and made me embarrassed to be in the same stand as them, I think some forget he is still relatively young at 22 and, unlike much of our squad, he had minimal rest over the close season due to youth international commitments.

I think this was in the manager's mind when McKay dropped for a few weeks in the autumn and when he came back he started to show again the player we know he can be. His return to the starting side came against Aberdeen at Ibrox and he duly came up with a big assist for Lee Hodson and I’d suggest very few players in our side if any would have made that assist.

In the next game he then scored against Hearts after a long throw from Lee Wallace which allowed Barrie to chest the ball in the box and finish. Calum Paterson has had a lot of praise - rightly so this season - but Barrie destroyed him this game.

In the latest Old Firm game he was also one of few players who were tormenting Celtic and we really should have got him the ball more as he had the beating of Lustig time and again, his confidence to take a player on is really improving also which was a criticism of him in the past.

The major issue he has with his game right now and the reason why I think he should stay a bit longer with us is his final ball is not always there and he needs game time to help that: he can pick out a ridiculous ball such is his incredible range of passing but then sometimes he will over hit a simple pass which would lead to a one on one or a tap in. This is one of the main issues he faces which if he seriously improves on there is no reason why he can’t play for a top side in the English Premier League in the future.

Barrie has also recently conducted an interview where he mentions his focus is only on Rangers and he knows he isn’t quite ready yet. With that said, we should be doing all we can to get him a new extended deal until at least 2020.

That gives the club security and allows Barrie regular match time to improve on certain aspects of his game while giving him a promise that we will sell to the right club for the right price in 18 months-2 years. If we get it right with this instead of a £6 million offer there is no reason why it can’t be £12 million upwards as you don’t see many players from Scotland with his range of attributes.

McKay also needs to add consistency to his game as so far this season a return of 3 goals and 9 assists in 27 appearances doesn’t reflect how good he really is - though I’d like to see where he ranks in key passes as we pass up on a lot of opportunities, e.g. Wallace v Aberdeen, Waghorn v Hearts etc. If he can also add some more goals to his game he’ll be a top, top player in the future and unlike many talents from Scotland the sky is the limit for him.

The real test will come when the first official bid comes in. If it is around £5-6 million then I’d hope we look to tie down McKay to a longer term deal first and then refuse the bid right now but I understand that sort of fee could be tempting to the board. However, replacing him for less than that would be very difficult especially in a January window.

Of course, a lot of this depends on Barrie himself – if he doesn’t wish to extend his deal then the board would probably be stupid not to take £5 million upwards for a player that, in this case, would be running down his contract and value decreasing every week that goes by.

In closing, I'm not sure that a lot of our support get how special a player Barrie McKay is and that we’d be a much poorer side without him. Given a major criticism is we aren’t creative enough, losing McKay would be a huge blow and I’ll stake a claim that he is probably one of only two or three in our squad good enough to be in a title winning Rangers side.

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