FILIP HELANDER has the potential to become one of those players whose name eventually represents something of far greater consequence than simply a reflection of their achievements.

In the short-term the Swede will offer an immediate upgrade on Rangers’ defensive options but it is the fact that the Ibrox club is willing and able to offer a transfer fee in the region of £3.5m that makes this deal especially eye-catching.

That would represent Rangers’ biggest outlay for a player for a decade since they paid £4m to sign the striker Nikica Jelavic and the greatest sum paid for anyone since they endured the drawn-out trauma of going into administration and liquidation in 2012. Seven years on, is this the sign Rangers are now finally able to properly challenge Celtic once again?

Helander will be none the wiser about any of this but, in years to come, his capture could be considered epochal in one of two ways.

Either it is seen as the starting point for the ushering in of a genuine duopoly once more as Rangers look to turn up the heat on Celtic by flexing their financial muscle. On the back of spending £3m on Connor Goldson last summer, Helander’s signing could be an indication that splurging on sizeable transfer fees will become the norm once again at Ibrox.

Alternatively, it could come to represent Rangers biting off more than they could chew in their determination to close the gap on Celtic, especially in a period when shrewd financial planning is likely to be abandoned for desperate measures as one side of Glasgow looks to clinch the fabled 10-in-a-row and the other is hellbent on stopping them. As with the club’s previous excessive largesse, only time will tell which of the two possible scenarios ends up unfolding at Ibrox.

Rangers’ finances remain a tangled web. In their latest annual accounts published last October for the year ended June 2018, they announced a loss of £14.3m despite an upturn in both season ticket sales and turnover. Operating expenses were an eye-watering £38.9m.

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Fast forward to February of this year, however, and figures for the six-month period up until the end of 2018 look rosier. A return to the group stage of European competition for the first time since 2010 made a significant impact as the club posted pre-tax profits of £5.1m.

The recruitment of Steven Gerrard as manager, and the cachet his name brings, undoubtedly has also helped elevate the club’s reputation in a global sense.

Some Celtic fans, in particular, remain convinced a second apocalypse is due at Ibrox any day now but Rangers’ eagerness to provide Gerrard with the players he requires would suggest they harbour no immediate concerns about the club’s financial health.

If Rangers are indeed now at their most robust for more than a decade then it sets up the intriguing prospect of what might lie ahead in the latest instalment of this city rivalry.

On the back of sealing three consecutive trebles and with far deeper pockets from which to spend, Celtic ought to have nothing unduly to worry them as they look to clinch their ninth consecutive championship.

It would only be prudent, however, if they were looking across the city at Gerrard’s eight signings and sizing them up for good measure, although Neil Lennon, in public at least, is choosing not to pay too much attention to whatever Rangers doing, instead focusing on his own rebuilding programme.

In fact, when he announced on Friday that “it’s not one of those situations where if they spend £4million then we want to spend £8m” then it was hard not to draw the comparison with David Murray’s comments to the contrary back in 1998. The then Rangers chairman was determined to crush the life out of Celtic and, while the club would go on to enjoy substantial short-term gains, it came at the cost of some serious long-term pain.

Celtic have made signings of their own this summer as they look to add a few missing pieces to the jigsaw but the prospect of losing one or both of Kieran Tierney and Tom Rogic has imbued a few fans with doubts. In this of all seasons, they do not want to see their rivals tooling up to provide a genuine threat again to their dominance. Time will tell if Elander proves to be the most significant arrival on that front or just the latest in a string of false dawns for Rangers.

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And another thing...

WHAT chance of the third biggest club in the country also hailing from Glasgow in the not-too-distant future? Partick Thistle fans will be understandably intrigued, and perhaps a touch concerned, by last week’s boardroom revolution that was apparently undertaken with a view to ushering in new owners in the form of Chien Lee and New City Capital.

Thistle are a club ripe for development given their untapped potential as the great Glasgow alternative and supporters will be eager to learn of any plans that could catapult them into the big time. With that, though, may arise concerns about the motives of any new foreign owners. It may not be as glamorous a move but only by placing a club in the hands of its fans can its long-term future be guaranteed. Any other approach is just a gamble. And those don’t always turn out well.