HIS story is one of rags to riches, a journey of determination as much as talent. Alfredo Morelos has gone from Medellin to Rangers’ multi-million pound man.

He may always have believed it possible, but few of those that saw the striker in his formative years could have imagined his rise and rise. Now, he stands on the brink of further international honours and a transfer deal that could make him the most expensive player ever to leave Scottish football.

It can be said with certainty that Morelos will move on from Rangers in the future, but little is known about his past. It is easy to see what makes the Colombian the player he is, yet harder to understand what has shaped Morelos the man.

“The only reason we kind of knew about him here was because he was with the Under-20s and this must have been around 2015, 2016,” Carl Worswick, a British journalist based in Bogota, told SportTimes. “He was in the Under-20s team but he was awful, he looked really raw and a bit lost. Nobody really knew who he was.

“So when he went to Finland, he took everyone by surprise. When you go to Finland from Colombia, you are going for the money and the experience and you don’t expect to progress your career. When he left, he dropped off the radar completely.”

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It was that move to HJK Helsinki that opened the doors to Europe for Morelos and the 22-year-old has certainly made the most of his opportunity. The rest, they say, is history.

A handful of appearances in the Colombian Cup are his only real moments of note in South America. It was Hernan Dario Gomez, the man who led Panama to the World Cup last summer, that saw potential in Morelos, but what he perceived as a lack of opportunities resulted in his departure from Independiente Medellin.

On the park, Morelos hasn’t looked back, but he has never forgotten where he is from and has often spoken in his homeland about his desire to represent his country.

He returned to Cerete after the Old Firm win in December to take part in a game in his honour and was given a medal by the Mayor following the match against local side Aquel Atletico Cordoba.

Pictured alongside his mother, Martha, and his father, Alfredo Snr, a fruit seller from the town, the pride was clear to see. From hardship and humble beginnings, Morelos has become a hero at home and Ibrox.

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“They come from the Colombian coast up near Panama, which is a massive danger area,” Worswick said. “It is actually not too far away from where Juan Cuadrado grew up and his dad was murdered. It is a problem region and he didn’t have it easy at all.

“A lot of his coaches were saying that when he was a kid he didn’t have enough money to pay to go to school, didn’t have enough money for boots or shin pads.

“One of the coaches saw he had a bit of talent and offered to help him out with costs. He didn’t have an easy upbringing it seems, but he seems very driven.”

That determination, that will to win, has been evident in Morelos since he was brought to Rangers by Pedro Caixinha after a recommendation from Jonathan Johansson and each of his managers have faced the same test when it comes to controlling his in-built emotions.

The rough edges, the moments of madness, are still there but the positives have always outweighed the negatives for those that try to nurture Morelos.

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“There was one moment where he was playing for his local youth side and without telling his manager he went for a trial at Medellin, one of the bigger teams in the country and where Jackson Martinez started out,” Worswick said. “The manager punished him and said he wasn’t playing again but all the players said he was so important for the team and they needed him. So the manager changed his mind and brought him back in. A year later, he got a move to Medellin.”

When Morelos decided to leave behind all that he had ever known and travel to Helsinki, he wasn’t just stepping out of his comfort zone on the pitch. Life would never be the same again, but from relative poverty he is now prospering.

His temperament and short fuse are too readily highlighted by his detractors, but he is mentally stronger than many give him credit for. He has had to be.

“That takes some character to knuckle down when you leave home at such a young age,” Worswick said. “I think he struggled a bit when he first arrived in Finland, but now look at him. It is quite incredible. I didn’t see it coming, but it is very impressive.

“He sounds very streetwise. You can’t erase your past. In some ways, that probably helps him and a Colombian footballer dropping into the Scottish league, he could have disappeared into the shadows. That tough upbringing must have stood him in good stead.”

An unknown when he arrived at Rangers, Morelos’ name now reverberates around Ibrox as supporters serenade ‘El Bufalo’ to the music of Bob Marley.

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His dream of playing in England or on the continent is shared by many of his countrymen but the success rate is small. Morelos has ability to realise his childhood ambitions, though.

“Whenever I speak to coaches, they pretty much always say the same thing and that Colombian players have all the technique and talent to do well in Europe,” Worswick said. “But so many of them, when they go out there, aren’t prepared mentally or psychologically and they often complain about missing their family, the food isn’t what they like and life isn’t what they are used to so they end up getting lost and depressed.

“When he did make a bit of a success of it in Finland, there were people tracking his progress and he got the move to Rangers. He is a player that has taken an unconventional route but he has become a massive success and taken everyone by surprise.”

The guidance of Steven Gerrard this season has helped Morelos take his game to a new level and his performances and potential have been rewarded as he gets set to join a rare group of players to break through the 30-goal barrier in Light Blue. A new contract signed earlier this month, the second he has penned this season, has benefitted the player and the club as Rangers brace themselves for interest come the end of the season.

Further international experience would only increase Morelos’ value and he will be given a chance to add to his solitary cap against Japan and South Korea in the coming days after being called-up by new boss Carlos Quieroz.

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“The Copa America is this year and the manager said this week that he is just having a look at him,” Worswick said. “He is part of this renewal process and if he impresses he could be in the squad.

“That is an area where Colombia aren’t very strong. Carlos Bacca is on the wane, Falcao is still scoring but everyone realises that his best years are behind him, especially with all the injuries.

“Nobody has sort of emerged and Alfredo Morelos is the key candidate, really, to be banging in goals in Europe to say I am the next one to be given a go.

“A few years ago, Colombia were quite blessed with strikers, but these days not so much. He has got his foot in the door and he could be one of the strikers for the Copa America.”