Balogun’s Rangers future secured: A key piece in Clement’s revamp

Nigerian international Leon Balogun has secured a new one-year contract with Rangers. The 35-year-old centre-back impressed Rangers boss Philippe Clement with his strong performances at the season's end.

The veteran centre-back was set to leave Ibrox when his contract expired on 31 May, but reports now indicate that the Nigerian has signed a new deal, extending his stay in Govan until the end of next season.

Balogun returned to the Scottish record champions for a second stint from Queens Park Rangers (QPR), but the transfer hasn't unfolded as anticipated.

He has mainly played a supporting role behind players such as Connor Goldson and John Souttar.

The centre-back position will be closely watched, especially since Goldson was dropped before the end of the season. Souttar missed the run-in and the cup final due to injury, with Rangers targeting Levski Sofia stopper Jose Cordoba.

He displayed an impressive performance during their 2-0 triumph over Hearts in the Scottish Cup semi-final.

Balogun expressed his desire to stay with the Light Blues after Saturday's Scottish Cup Final defeat to Celtic, and now his wish to continue with the club next season has been granted.

The Super Eagles defender has made 14 appearances for the Gers, starting 13 of them, and has averaged 74 minutes per game. He has been named to the Team of the Week on two occasions.

What Clement said before Leon Balogun's contract extension

Following the Scottish Cup victory over Hearts, Clement stated, “Leon is somebody who showed every day the right mentality, the right passion for the club. So that can be something that is on the table at the end of the season, but it is the end of the season that we can make a really good evaluation about everything and everybody.”

“It’s going to be a very interesting period in that way for us to make the right decisions for next season also. To see how everybody trains, plays, behaves, works, shows resilience in the next couple of weeks because you want to be successful with this club so we need the right players in the building,” The 50-year-old continued.

He further added, “I think it’s now very important we have the next two weeks for the games, that the players are focused on football. If they are busy now with those things it would be a bad thing here. If it was two weeks ago and there was a decision we had time to talk about at that moment, now we need to put it on hold until the end of the season and put everything on these four games.”

Balogun's contract extension: A key piece in Rangers' plans

The Nigerian defender's extension comes at a crucial time for the club, as they prepare for a summer overhaul of their squad.

Clement, who is set for a significant revamp of his team, faces the departure of several key players. John Lundstram, Borna Barisic, Ryan Jack, and John McLaughlin are all set to leave the club as their contracts expire.

Also, loan stars Fabio Silva, Oscar Cortes, and Abdallah Sima face uncertain futures after their loan deals came to an end.

Amidst this backdrop of change, Balogun's contract extension represents a stabilising force in Rangers' defensive setup.

Leon Balogun @ Icon Sport
Photo by Icon Sport

His reliability and leadership at the back have not gone unnoticed, making him a respected figure both on and off the pitch. Balogun's experience will be invaluable as Clement looks to rebuild a squad capable of challenging for trophies next season.

Could Balogun's contract extension signal a potential return to the Super Eagles?

Balogun, born to a Nigerian father and a German mother, has had a noteworthy career marked by significant milestones and challenges.

He received his first call-up to the Nigeria national team for a friendly against Mexico in March 2014, stepping in as a replacement for Joseph Yobo.

Unfortunately, his debut was marred by an injury sustained just 20 minutes after coming on as a half-time substitute, when he collided with advertising signage along the touchline, resulting in a foot fracture. Initially, it was expected that he would undergo surgery and face a 2-3 month recovery period. However, Balogun later clarified to the media that surgery was unnecessary.

Balogun earned his second cap for Nigeria on 25 March 2015, playing in a 1-0 defeat against Uganda. Subsequently, on 13 June 2015, he featured in Nigeria's 2-0 victory over Chad in the opening match of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

His steady performances earned him a place in Nigeria's final 23-man squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Throughout the tournament, he played every minute of Nigeria's three matches, including a resounding 2-0 victory over Iceland, although Nigeria were eliminated after finishing third in their group.

Leon Balogun @ Icon Sport
Photo by Icon Sport

Balogun was also selected for Nigeria's squad in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. Making his tournament debut in the Super Eagles' second group stage match against Guinea, he contributed to a 1-0 victory that secured Nigeria's advancement to the knockout stage.

Unfortunately, persistent injuries have forced Super Eagles coaches to sideline Balogun from their squads for some time now.

Despite these setbacks, Balogun has made 46 appearances for the Super Eagles, scoring one goal.

With a new one-year contract extension reported by The Scottish Sun, Balogun has impressed manager Clement with his strong performances at the end of the season at Rangers. This contract extension could be a turning point in his career, providing him with the stability and platform to demonstrate his fitness and form.

With Nigeria's new coach Finidi George at the helm, Balogun's return to the Super Eagles could be on the horizon.

George, known for his tactical acumen and focus on strong defensive setups, might find Balogun's experience and leadership invaluable as he looks to build a robust squad for upcoming competitions.

Balogun's recent performances and his new contract with Rangers suggest he still has much to offer. If he can maintain his fitness and continue to perform at a high level, a return to the Super Eagles under George could very well be in the offing.

This potential comeback would not only bolster Nigeria's defensive options but also bring a wealth of experience and resilience to the team.

Avatar photo
Godfred Budu

Godfred Budu, a Ghanaian sports journalist, brings a dynamic perspective to the field with over a decade of experience. Having contributed to esteemed platforms such as Kickgh.com and Inkandkicks.com. Godfred is recognised for his insightful commentary and in-depth analysis of African football.
His passion for storytelling and commitment to accuracy have established him as a trusted authority in sports journalism in Ghana, captivating audiences with his engaging narratives and unparalleled expertise.
Godfred holds a degree in Integrated Development Studies (Social and Development Administration option) from the University for Development Studies, Ghana.