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Danny Stewart: Will Southampton move also be Joe Aribo’s catalyst to the big time?

© Luke Nickerson/Rangers FC/ShutteJoe Aribo scores in the Europa League Final, and is now on a similar path to Virgil van Dijk
Joe Aribo scores in the Europa League Final, and is now on a similar path to Virgil van Dijk

On a scale of predictability, Southampton’s move for Joe Aribo last week was right up at the top of the graph.

The club on England’s south coast can boast conspicuous success with their transfer raids north of the border in the last decade.

Victor Wanyama (2013), Fraser Forster (2014), Virgil van Dijk (2015) and Stuart Armstrong (2018) were all snapped up from Celtic, and outperformed their fees by some distance.

Having done so well with some of the Hoops’ best talents, it was only a matter of time before the Saints turned their attention to Rangers.

And Aribo – 25 and about to enter the final year of his Ibrox deal – represents as safe a bet as it is possible to get.

The Light Blues’ scorer in last season’s Europa League Final, his performances throughout the run to Seville marked him out as a player who would have zero difficulty stepping into a Premier League side.

From a sellers’ point of view, too, the deal fits the business model almost all clubs aspire to follow – buy low, sell high.

Due to cross-border transfer rules, Aribo only cost Rangers some £300,000 from Charlton Athletic when signing on a four-year contract back in June, 2019.

Selling him on for £10-million, including add-ons, makes for an exemplary bit of recruitment.

Adding spice to the mix was the news that Rangers are bringing John Park – the man at the heart of some of Celtic’s flashiest successes of this type – into their scouting and recruitment operation,

Van Dijk and Wanyama were signed during his time working for the Hoops, as was Moussa Dembele.

Speaking after his departure from Celtic, Park made the point that if “Moneyball” logic is simple, putting it into practice is anything but.

The magic trick lies in picking the right development prospects in a market where so many other clubs are trying to do exactly the same thing.

It is no coincidence that Old Firm clubs are often linked with the same transfer targets, as their recruitment needs are largely similar.

Likewise, Aribo is treading the path of the aforementioned Celts to a mid-table Premier League club, with the prospect of the proper big time if he is a success at St Mary’s.

© John Walton/PA Wire
Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk

Van Dijk’s £75m move to Liverpool and Wanyama heading to Tottenham are examples of Southampton being used as a stepping stone.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s main work this summer has been retaining the spine of last season’s success, with Connor Goldson, Allan McGregor and Steven Davis all retained on new deals.

He would have preferred to have kept Aribo, of course.

So Antonio Colak coming through the revolving door at Ibrox just as the Nigerian is exiting it puts a bit of added pressure on the Croatian striker, signed from Greek club, PAOK.

And despite the Light Blues also signing ex-Derby County forward, Tom Lawrence, on Friday, Celtic would still appear to be ahead of them in the signing stakes this summer.

The Premiership champions have managed to secure permanent deals for three exceptional loans last season – Jota, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Daizen Maeda – while bringing in Alexandro Bernabei and Ben Siegrist.

But probably the most impressive deal of the close-season has been at Aberdeen, who boosted their coffers by £4.5m – with more to come from add-ons – from the sale of full-back Calvin Ramsay to Liverpool.

Some of that cash will have been invested in a raft of new faces.

Bojan Miovski, Jayden Richardson, Anthony Stewart, Liam Scales, Kelle Roos and Ylber Ramadani have all arrived at Pittodrie as manager, Jim Goodwin, looks to rebuild a squad that flirted with relegation, and finished 10th in the table last season.

Time will tell if those acquisitions are shrewd or scatter-gun.

Dundee United boss Jack Ross, meanwhile, has not taken long to show his canniness at Tannadice.

Vigorously pursuing a new loan for Dylan Levitt from Manchester United is what surely every Tangerines’ fan would have done in his place, given the player’s impact last season.

That has now become a permanent move, alongside bringing striker Steven Fletcher back to Scottish football after 13 years in England.

There is solid logic to Levitt’s decision as regular first-team football will give the 21-year-old Welshman the best chance of representing his country at the World Cup.

Do well for his country in Qatar, and there is no telling where he career could take him – though a switch to Southampton would be a decent bet.