THE Rangers career of Niko Katic looks like being a case of what might have been. Sooner rather than later, it could be all over and the Croatian finds himself at a crossroads in the game.

Signed by Steven Gerrard during his first summer at Ibrox, Katic was an unknown arrival from Slaven Belupo that quickly became a favourite with fans. He was a raw talent, yet there was a physicality and mentality about him that seemed to bode well for a bright future.

But the cruciate knee ligament injury suffered ahead of the title winning campaign set Katic back. Ultimately, it was the beginning of the end for him and he is now well down the pecking order of defenders that Giovanni van Bronckhorst has to choose from.

A season back in his homeland with Hajduk Split allowed him to rebuild his fitness and confidence. Here, Herald and Times Sport speaks to Frane Vulas of the Split newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija about Katic's campaign in Croatia and what the future holds.

How would you rate Niko’s season with Hajduk Split? Was he an important member of the team and did he play well over the course of the season?

FV: Katić had a good season with Hajduk. Not great, it could have been better, but he had a good, solid season.

He was a very important member of Hajduk team that won the first trophy after nine years in the Croatian Cup, and was in the race for the championship until the last two rounds. Hajduk haven't been second since 2012.

To be honest he had a one or two bad games, but every defender has, and he mainly played well over the course of the season.

Niko was obviously coming back from a very serious knee injury. Did you see that the injury was still impacting on his fitness and his performances? Or do you think he is now fully over that injury?

FV: I don't believe that injury was still impacting on his fitness and performances. Although he had slight injury in the finish of the season, and bad luck.

First because of yellow cards he missed a big derby with Dinamo Zagreb in Split, and two games later he was injured in league game against Hrvatski Dragovoljac.

He missed the last three league games, and was an unused substitute in cup final at the end of the season.

Did you see any improvements in Niko’s game during the season? Did he benefit from the loan and the game time that he had in Split?

FV: He came to Hajduk after recovering from injury, with lack of games, and in September, two months after Croatian league already started.

In the start he was in an obviously difficult position, but he pushed himself in the starting line up. He had some ups and downs, including a really unlucky own goal against Lokomotiva and a mistake that led to a goal in a game at Istra 1961.

But he was the part of the best Hajduk team in a decade for sure. The loan was a good decision for him and for both clubs, Hajduk and Rangers also.

Maybe he needs some more games to get to the level he used to be before that injury, but I believe he was on the right track in Hajduk.

How keen were Hajduk Split to keep him for next season? Are Split unhappy that Rangers will not lower their price to do a deal for Niko to sign for split?

FV: I think Hajduk were keen to keep him for next season. I cannot say they're unhappy, but financially Hajduk is not in a position to pay a big amount of money for transfer fees.

I suppose they hoped some kind of lower price, because of the injury history, because it's the last year of his contract.

They have no agreement with Ferro, who was loaned form Benfica last season, also. But that's a very different story and Ferro doesn't want to play here anymore. Hajduk is in a position where they really need centre-backs.

Do you think he is at a level and able to compete for a place with Rangers next season? Will he be able to play at Champions League or Europa League level for Rangers?

FV: I believe he is able to compete to earn a place in a Rangers team. I repeat, he is not yet on the level he was playing prior to injury, but with every game he was getting better. And he is a great guy with whom it's easy to play or work with and that also helped.

When you believe in a player, it pays you back. Please don't get me wrong, I know Rangers played in the Europa League final last season. They would be favourites, but I assure you it would be a tight hypothetical game if it was Rangers against the Hajduk Split team that finished the season.

This is now a very good Hajduk team, mix of experience, which they lacked in last seasons, and youth, Croatian talent. It's not a big difference to play in these two clubs like it used to be, besides financially. Of course, it's a bigger competition for places in Rangers team.

Where do you think Niko will go next? Is another move back to Croatia likely or do you think he will need to go and play elsewhere to continue his career?

FV: I still hope he will play again for Hajduk next season. If Rangers lower their asking price I believe it's still possible to see him again in Hajduk team and that's the best possible solution for Nikola.