THE Old Firm transfer merry-go-round has been spinning furiously in the past few days.
When it comes to a halt, Simon Donnelly doesn’t believe very much will have changed.
Celtic smashed the club’s transfer record with the £9million capture of Odsonne Edouard from PSG, their biggest outlay for 17 years since signing John Hartson from Coventry City for £6m.
That leaves Brendan Rodgers with the mouth-watering prospect of having Moussa Dembele, Leigh Griffiths and Edouard to choose from up front.
Across the city, Steven Gerrard has seen central defenders Connor Goldson and Nikola Katic put pen to paper, as well as midfielder Scott Arfield and keeper Allan MacGregor.
The spending, so far, at Ibrox sits around the £6.5m mark, and midfielder Ovie Ejaria has also been brought in on loan from Liverpool.
But former Hoops striker Donnelly feels his old club will still be well out in front when it all settles down.
Indeed, he can only see a genuine title challenge coming from Rangers if they manage to bring in a striker with something like the quality of the aforementioned Celtic trio.
Donnelly told The Sunday Post: “Clearly, there is more work to be done at Ibrox.
“The gap between both clubs was exposed for all to see last season when Celtic won every Old Firm game very comfortably, and the last two meetings by an aggregate of 9-0.
“I’m sure Brendan Rodgers will look to add maybe two more signings.
“But he is in a fortunate position that he only needs to focus on one or two areas of the team, and that gives you a much better chance of getting the signings spot on.
“Listen, there can never be any guarantees about any signing, whether they cost £100,000 or £10m.
“There is always an element of risk, and you need a lot of things to go in your favour for a signing to be successful.
“But any manager would rather be in the position of having a fairly settled side, with quality on the sidelines, rather than having to almost start from scratch and needing to add eight or nine players.
“That’s why Brendan has a clear distance between himself and Stevie.
“The gap is so big that it is unlikely to see Rangers closing it enough to overtake Celtic within the next 12 months.
“I’d imagine Stevie will want to move out another three or four players, and maybe bring in the same number.
“A striker is a priority for him. An absolute must.
“They only really have Alfredo Morelos as a No. 9 – and even then there is talk of him moving on for five or six milion.
“In order to give themselves a decent chance over a league programme of 38 games, Rangers need to find the very best proven goalscorer they can.
“In fact, they probably need to bring in two strikers.
“Of course, strikers don’t come cheap, and they will need to spend a pretty penny to find the right guys.
“I suppose they are looking to try to add the kind of quality that Celtic have.
“I’m sure if Rangers felt they could get a striker of the quality of a Dembele, Griffiths or Edouard, then they’d be delighted.
“But those guys are not easy to find. They don’t turn up on your doorstep every day.
“It takes hard work, a few quid, a good network of contacts – and a bit of luck – to get guys like that in.
“It’s up to the Rangers staff to see what they can come up with.
“They look as though they have strengthened significantly in other areas of the pitch.
“Now two strikers must be the priority, and they have to invest every penny they can into the right ones.”
With Rodgers having the three at the top end of the pitch to choose from, Donnelly doesn’t necessarily think that will mean that one of them will be sold.
With Edouard just in the door permanently, it would mean either Griffiths or Dembele moving on.
However, Donnelly would dispute that, and explained: “Every season is massive at Celtic. I know because I’ve been there.
“There is enormous pressure to win titles and cups. The level of expectation and the demands on the management and players never lets up. Honestly, it’s relentless.
“However, when you are winning, it is so enjoyable. When you are losing – or chasing your rivals – it can be horrible.
“So Celtic will not be in any rush to sell their best players. They will want to keep as much quality in the squad as possible.
“I’d be taken aback if any of the strikers were sold before their Champions League fate was known.
“Qualification into that tournament is worth more than £30m, and you don’t want to be losing players before that.
“Remember, they have four qualifying rounds to get through and will need all their resources.
“Sure, the goalposts have moved a bit in England, as they will now close their transfer window on August 9.
“So maybe that could see a move for the likes of Dembele come around.
“But it will take a massive transfer fee to shift him, and the club will also need to be an attractive one.
“I can’t see Dembele leaving Celtic at this stage for a bottom-eight club in the EPL.
“I also think there is a good chemistry in the Celtic squad. Edouard has a good relationship with Dembele and Olivier Ntcham. So there will be no rush to move on.
“Dembele is a very capable striker, and he is still young. He turns 22 next month, so he has lots of time to progress and develop.
“Edouard is even younger. He is just 20.
“I have to say when I watched him in the earlier part of last season, I wasn’t overly sure about him.
“But it was clear to see Brendan and the coaching staff were working hard with him, and the boy improved from March onwards.
“I suppose the winning goal he scored at Ibrox against Rangers in the 3-2 victory that month was a defining moment.
“He never looked back from there.
“I fancy him to go from strength to strength. He is powerful, young and knows how to play the role of centre-forward.
“And in Leigh, Brendan has a striker who will not rock the boat. I believe he loves it at Celtic and just wants to play and score goals.
“He is highly talented, still very hungry and eager to play his part in any success story in the coming months.
“So, having such quality in the team gives Celtic the clear advantage over Rangers.
“They also have players who have massive value in the transfer market, should they ever feel the need to cash in on one or two and allow any of the players to go and play in a better league.
“But, right now, I can’t see any of Celtic’s main players being sold, and I can’t see any of them asking to leave.
“The situation may well be reviewed in mid-to-late August.
“Until then, Celtic will keep striding forward and be the team for everyone to catch.”