Former Glasgow Rangers defender Joachim Bjorklund believes that his Swedish compatriot Filip Helander could be a key presence in the team’s bid to regain domestic supremacy next season.
The 27-year-old has not played in the last six months after being sidelined by a foot injury sustained in the Betfred Cup final, with the premature end to the current season depriving him of a chance to return to action since.
The 2020/21 campaign will be an especially crucial one for the ‘Gers as they seek to stop crosstown rivals Celtic from securing a record-breaking 10th successive league title and Bjorklund, who was on the Light Blues team that fell short in their 10-in-a-row quest in 1998, thinks that his fellow countryman can have a big say in thwarting Neil Lennon’s team in their shot at history.
The 49-year-old told the Daily Record: “It’s always a shame to get injured but I suppose it’s part and parcel of the game to deal with injuries but hopefully he can come back stronger next season and help Rangers win the title.
“At Rangers I had the chance for 10 and unfortunately we blew it in the end because we should have won it. Where one Swedish defender failed in winning 10, though, I hope another can succeed in stopping Celtic doing it.”
Bjorklund, who witnessed Helander’s fledgling talents first-hand when he was breaking through at Malmo, added: “If he can stay fit then I’m sure he can be a big asset for Rangers. That was my view when he signed because I’d been impressed when I watched him for Malmo and on and off for Sweden.
“He’s big and strong, good at attacking the ball and for a big guy he is more than half decent with the ball at his feet as well and he can play out from the back as Rangers do these days. He’s never had a regular starting slot in the national team but that’s more down to the competition for places.”
Will the 'Gers stop Celtic's bid for 10 in a row?
Bjorklund is right to praise Helander’s attributes in terms of strength and passing ability. The 27-year-old’s passing success rate of 83.7% is the highest among Steven Gerrard’s centre-back options while he is also impressive in the air, winning 3.4 headers per game (as per WhoScored).
He had forged his way into the manager’s preferred line-up in the two months prior to his foot injury, starting six successive Premiership games and the Light Blues’ first five Europa League group matches (as per TransferMarkt).
However, the Swede could face a battle to get back into the team for next season, with strong competition for places at Ibrox. Connor Goldson is virtually a fixed presence in Gerrard’s first XI, leaving Helander, Nikola Katic and George Edmundson battling for the other centre-back slot. While the former has been laid low for six months and counting, the latter has forged his way into the team thanks to a string of impressive performances, not least the one away to Braga in February.
Perhaps Helander will prove Bjorklund’s prophecy correct, although first he needs to win his own battle and get back into the team before harbouring serious ambitions of playing a key role in taking down Celtic.
‘Gers fans, do you think Helander can be a vital part of the team next season? Share your views in the comments section below!
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