If there was one area of the pitch that Rangers needed to prioritise in the upcoming transfer window it was the No.9 position.

Before the January window has even opened, Philippe Clement looks to have his man. Last night, the Ibrox club announced the signing of Wolves forward Fabio Silva on a loan deal until the end of the season. The 21-year-old will join the club on New Year’s Day. The transfer does not include any purchase option clause.

Silva is under contract at Wolves until 2026 and the Premier League outfit holds the option of extending that contract by another year. Silva cost a club-record £35.6m in 2020 when he traded Porto for Molineux where he’d developed a reputation as one of Europe’s most exciting young attackers. At Porto, Silva became the youngest player to represent the club domestically and on a European stage.

Despite a promising start with the Premier League outfit, by Silva's own admission, it has "not been easy". He moved to Belgium in the summer of 2022 after signing a new contract at Wolves, joining Anderlecht on loan before trading the Belgian Pro League for the Eredivisie in January 2023. At PSV, he scored the winning penalty against Ajax in the KNVB Cup Final. Across all competitions last season the Portuguese Under-21 international played 51 games, scored sixteen goals and registered six assists.

Despite significant investment across the attacking areas this summer, Clement confirmed publicly that Rangers would move for at least one striker following the knee injury Danilo suffered at Tynecastle on December 6. The Brazilian, who arrived from Feyenoord in the summer, required surgery and will be sidelined for months.

Cyriel Dessers has three goals in four league starts since Danilo’s injury and also scored an impressive individual effort during a historic away win over Real Betis earlier in the month but Kemar Roofe’s ongoing injury issues leave alternative options limited alongside the 29-year-old. 

Silva is a No.9 that Rangers, and Clement, believe suits their style of play on and off the ball. The attacker has also played from the left-hand side during his career and behind a central striker, but it’s the No.9 slot he’ll compete for at Ibrox.

The possibility of signing Silva on loan was first presented to the Rangers football board around a week before Christmas by incoming Director of Recruitment Nils Koppen. Despite not formally starting his role in Glasgow until the new year, sources suggested that Koppen was “instrumental” in the emergence and completion of this deal.

Rangers intentionally pursued a recruitment specialist when building a football board, rather than opting to replace Ross Wilson’s overarching Sporting Director role. Chairman John Bennett explained at the club’s recent AGM that the football board aimed to “spread the load” of the Sporting Director role. “We know what we want to fix, recruitment. That’s why Nils is here,” he said.

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While Koppen joins from PSV, where Silva spent the second half of last season on loan, it’s understood the pair didn’t have a direct relationship from their shared time in Eindhoven.  Clement was aware of the player given his spell in the Belgian Pro League and believed, like Koppen, that the former Porto striker boasts the correct profile for his style of play and the attributes to be a success in Glasgow. It’s understood that as well as passing the eye test, Silva proved a strong match across Rangers' scouting data metrics matched to Clement’s striker requirements. 

Despite making several appearances for Wolves earlier this season, Silva pushed for a loan move in the January window. He had interest from around Europe in the Bundesliga and Serie A. Freiburg, Eintracht Frankfurt, Wolfsburg and Union Berlin wanted to bring him to Germany while in Italy, Genoa and Monza were both interested parties.

The Rangers Review understands that Rangers' place in the Europa League last 16 was a big factor in Silva’s decision to choose a move to Ibrox, alongside the roles of Clement and Koppen in negotiations. Sources close to the player suggest that Rangers competed with Celtic for the player’s signature. A Zoom call with Clement early in the process is believed to have been key in swaying the decision. It quickly materialised after the conversation with Clement that Rangers was the move Silva wanted, hence the deal being completed before the New Year.

At 21, Silva’s heavy price tag has proven a stick to beat him with in recent years but having moved for over £35million as a teenager, the forward’s talent is unquestionable. After a promising campaign across the Belgian and Dutch leagues last season, Rangers and Clement inherit a player eager to kick on and make good of his promise and potential. There will be immediate pressure to deliver and as a young player, Silva will be required to shoulder responsibility and demonstrate consistency in a season-defining number of months. 

The fact that Rangers have been able to secure his services over and above competition speaks volumes for the change in mood and expectation since Clement’s arrival at the club in mid-October. They were seven points behind in the league and lagging in Europe but now have a last-16 Europa League tie to look forward to, games in hand which could take them to the Premiership's summit and a League Cup already secured.

The Belgian manager’s vital part in selling his vision to the player was only made possible by Koppen’s influential role in helping identify and lead the transfer.

Fittingly for a young Portuguese attacker, Silva will wear the No.7 shirt vacated by Ianis Hagi, who is on a loan himself in Spain at Alavés. It’s, of course, in tribute to his footballing idol Cristiano Ronaldo.

There is hope across all parties that Ibrox can provide Silva with the platform to progress. Reinvigorated under Clement, Rangers are hungry for more success despite the crisis of this season’s opening weeks and in Silva, they’ve signed a player eager to make his mark in Glasgow.