Alfredo Morelos: Can Steven Gerrard tame Rangers' El Buffalo?

Alfredo Morelos
Alfredo Morelos has shown positive and negative elements of his game this season

When you sit down to research Alfredo Morelos' brief time in Scottish football, you'd want to clear your day before you do it. The Rangers forward is fast approaching the one-time runaway leader, Scott Brown, as the most talked-about guy in the domestic game.

Morelos, only 22 and already the subject of bids from China and France since joining from HJK Helsinki in summer 2017, evokes extreme opinions.

Fifty-nine games played and 26 goals scored. To Rangers people he's a young star on the rise, a player recently-capped for Colombia, with a huge work ethic and all the assets to become a very serious striker if he can only tidy up his act.

To the critics, he's an irredeemable hot-head and a liability, a bit of a flat-track bully who goes missing in the biggest games. This is Scottish football. Your wear your colours, you take your choice.

In truth, he's two footballers in one; ruthless and wasteful, exciting and infuriating, a fellow that will get Rangers fans out of their seats one minute and have them burying their heads in their hands the next.

'He must be driving Gerrard daft'

Morelos scores goals at a rate of any good striker. He also misses opportunities with the regularity of a poor striker and gets himself in the kind of bother with officials that is surely driving his manager, Steven Gerrard, daft. In those 59 games he has 20 yellow cards and two reds, although one of each were later rescinded.

The latest chapter in his story was written at Ibrox on Wednesday. Going into the League Cup quarter-final against Ayr United, Morelos was on a yellow card from an earlier round. In keeping with his narrative, that earlier round involved a hat-trick in a 3-1 win over Kilmarnock plus an utterly needless booking for hauling down a player while Rangers were in possession.

In the 4-0 triumph over Ayr, he got a second League Cup yellow card that will keep him out of the semi-final against Aberdeen next month.

It was complicated. It looked like Morelos had been fouled, then he reacted by bawling at the referee, then he got booked. Some had sympathy with him, some didn't.

His manager supported him, but at the same time Gerrard must have known that whatever he's been saying to his player about resisting the urge to react to heavy treatment, the words are going in one side of Morelos' head and flying out the other.

'There's a failing in Morelos' make-up'

Morelos' ability, desire and appreciation of what he has at Rangers has endeared him to everybody at the club, but when Gerrard talks about his admiration for him you wonder how much of that relates to the here and now and how much relates to the footballer he might become if only he can get his discipline sorted.

That's the challenge for Gerrard. He's tantalised by the prospect of a player who doesn't lose the plot so often and the pay-out would be handsome if he gets it right.

Pedro Caixinha didn't get a lot right at Ibrox but at least he left Morelos behind as part of his otherwise battered legacy. The Portuguese signed the Colombian but couldn't really influence him. From his first goals for Rangers, marked by a booking for almost jumping into the Broomloan Stand in celebration, there's been a failing in his make-up that has not been removed.

He's been targeted at times, no question. But he's been targeted for a reason. Against Dundee last season, he got booked for getting involved in a spat with Kevin Holt, then got booked against Hibs for an altercation with John McGinn, then got booked for a flare-up with Brown in the Old Firm game, and got booked once more for dissent after complaining about not getting a free-kick against Motherwell.

A pattern emerges and a player gets a reputation that he has to do something about. In the 5-0 loss to Celtic at the end of last season, Morelos was yellow-carded for a gratuitous kick at Dedryck Boyata, then got yellow-carded for elbowing Stuart Findlay of Kilmarnock. When later in the same match he directed a punch to Findlay's groin, he avoided sanction. That should have been a red card.

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'An outstanding performance from Morelos' - Steven Thompson

'A test for Gerrard - and the signs are not good'

For all his goals and positive moments in matches, somebody needed to get hold of him. Enter Gerrard.

In 17 seasons as a player in England, Gerrard only ever reached double figures in cards twice - his final two campaigns, when he played a total of 92 games including the World Cup in Brazil. In 2004-05, when he won the Champions League, the Liverpool captain played 49 games for club and country and was booked a total of six times.

The season after - a World Cup year in Germany - he played 66 games and picked up just five yellows and one red. The next, he played 61 games and was booked three times. In 2010-11 and 2011-12 he got a combined total of five cards - four yellows and one red.

Discipline was just a small part of what made Gerrard a great player, but it was an important part. He knew he was of no use if he reacted to provocation or got lippy with referees. He was too professional.

Morelos can learn at the feet of a master here, if he's clever enough. You have to say, though, that the early signs are not good. In Gerrard's first competitive match, against Shkupi in a Europa League qualifier, Morelos got booked for a wholly unnecessary challenge on their goalkeeper.

Steven Gerrard talks to Alfredo Morelos
Steven Gerrard has lauded the potential of Morelos

Then, there was the kick-out at Aberdeen's Scott McKenna on the opening day of the Premiership season that's been the cause of so much scrutiny since, then that first League Cup booking that has now come back to damage him and his club, then the double meltdown against FC Ufa that could have led to Rangers' exit from Europe had they not been so bloody-minded on the night.

Morelos' red card in Russia for kicking the ball away and then mouthing-off at the referee was a glaring illustration that, for all the progress Gerrard is making at Rangers, he's still got a way to go in the battle to infiltrate the brain of his star striker. The yellow against Ayr, when Rangers were 2-0 ahead and cruising, was another example of it, not that it was needed.

At his best, Morelos is a huge strength. His industry, his unselfishness, his cleverness, his goals - all commodities that Gerrard is rightly excited about.

In trying to deal with his own destructive streak, the Colombian should have another go at listening to his boss, a man who performed under far greater pressure for far longer and at a far higher level and managed to keep calm and carry on.