It didn’t take Vincent Heilmann long to discern that his new teammate Sam Lammers was special.

He’d faced the forward before Lammers joined his PSV Under-13s from Willem II but it was the first-hand daily experience of training that confirmed what he’d previously witnessed in opposition. This was no ordinary footballer, with no ordinary ceiling.

“Sam was taking free-kicks, penalties, corners with his left foot and his right. We’d sometimes ask him, ‘Which is your stronger foot’? Even he didn’t know! It was outstanding,” he says.

“His first touch, the way he dribbled, he was perfect on either foot, I’ve never seen something like that before, someone who’s quite so two-footed.”

“Sam is incredibly motivated. I don’t know a player who’s trained more in his youth career and still now as a professional, even during his vacation time, he’s developing with extra football coaches and physical coaches.

“Sam always did extra alongside all the talent he possessed. The hours he spent on his development is the reason he got that big, big transfer to Atalanta and has now signed for Rangers.”

Lammers, 26, arrives at Ibrox with no time to lose. After a promising loan spell with Heerenveen in 2018/19 and eventual €11million Euro move to Atalanta in 2020 his career hasn’t kicked on as promised, plateauing across loan spells in Italy and Germany.

Speaking to those who knew him best during those formative years in Eindhoven, Lammers’ career has never been a question of talent or mentality. Rather, the forward has been searching for the correct environment to make the impact his talent merits.

Now in Michael Beale, Lammers has a coach banking on potential that’s never been in question.

Heilmann was, like Lammers, a promising youth product at PSV once upon a time. Having suffered a serious injury, the 26-year-old has since developed a vocation on the touchline instead of the pitch.

He worked for PSV until 2021, then became assistant manager at Wolfsburg in the German Bundesliga. Only recently appointed head coach of Belgian top-flight side KAS Eupen, Heilmann knows what and who he’s talking about, remaining close friends with Rangers’ new No.14 to this day.

“We are from the same place, Sam came to PSV at Under-13s and I was already at the club having joined at Under-9s,” he tells the Rangers Review.

“We knew each other from playing against one another. Then when Sam joined the Under-13s we travelled together every day and became very close. If you travel to training and school every day, that’s a lot of time together. Then, you get to know each other as good friends as well as teammates. He’s not only a perfect player but a perfect guy.

“Sam had an excellent loan season at Heerenveen in 2018/19. There are a lot of big players at PSV, however, so there’s no guarantee you’ll play games when you return.

“Sam is a player who knows he has the qualities, so he wants to play. After playing every game in that loan spell, it became a case of ‘I should play every game at PSV’ and then came Atalanta’s big transfer offer.”

Lammers has suffered one serious injury in his career, requiring knee surgery at the start of the 2019/20 season just after his promising loan spell in the Eredivisie. Despite featuring regularly towards the end of that campaign for PSV in the summer the attacker chose to twist rather than stick - moving to Serie A.

“We would have liked Sam to stay with us, but he has made a different choice’’, said PSV’s Director of Football at the time John de Jong, who praised the forward’s attitude despite his desire for a move to Italy.

READ MORE: Sam Lammers Scouted - Beale's new technician 

“It was a perfect moment for him,” Heilmann continues. At that time, aged 23, Lammers was moving to one of Europe’s great talent developers and strongest divisions, but success would not follow.

In 2021/22 he was loaned to Eintracht Frankfurt and last season was spent propping up Serie A with Empoli and Sampdoria.

“In Italy, living in another country and speaking a different language - you need the first year to adapt.

“It’s not easy to then go on loan to different clubs, especially if the team are playing to avoid relegation. Now, I have a lot of hope for Sam because he’ll have more stability at a good club, where he speaks the language perfectly. I’m convinced he’ll perform in Glasgow, I have no doubt about it.”

It’s so easy to gloss over the human element of football. Isn’t it more convenient to assume the 11 players taking to the field are only kicking a ball for our entertainment? As Todd Cantwell said during his Ibrox unveiling, a player also arriving to re-direct his career trajectory, “You guys are probably fully aware that things off the pitch can affect someone on the pitch just like any normal person.”

What of Lammers’ style? Should a lack of goals lately prove concerning? Beale referenced the attacker increasing the squad’s “technical and tactical” profile and explained that he could fit at No.10 or No.9 in Rangers’ system.

“Sam is a very very clever player. He understands the game very well and can implement exactly what the coach wants. He can play as a No.9, 9.5 or 10,” Heilmann adds.

“He’s a very nice player operating in the pockets and has a very good game intelligence. You have to give him responsibility because of his understanding of the game - he knows how to play. I think for a coach it’s important to give him that, let him understand the tactics.

“Sam in the box is so dangerous because he can score every type of goal. When I was a coach at Wolfsburg last year he scored just one goal in the Bundesliga, but of course, it was against us!

“Sam can score from nothing. Because he is such a good footballer. The issue has been that most coaches don’t use him like a real No.9. They use him like a 9.5 to play between or overload spaces because he is such a good footballer. Sam can do that but if you use him as a real No.9, he will score at least 15 goals and give you 10 assists every season.”

Rini de Groot joins the story from across the aisle. Head of Youth scouting at PSV since 2002, he was the man who first brought Lammers to the club, even if this was no great scouting story.

“I had a lot of reports coming in about Sam from various scouts but he was also playing against our teams so I saw him from two sides. Put it this way, it was not so difficult to discover him,” he tells the Rangers Review.

“It took me time to work out what his real strong foot was. You couldn’t say with confidence whether he was left-footed or right-footed, although eventually, I discovered it was his left.

“I had a good feeling about him. Not only because of his footballing ability but his family, which is very stable.

“As a youth player, nothing was difficult with Sam, the only issue he had was a growth spurt. He was already taller than the rest of his teammates at every age but then aged 14 he grew to 180-185cm in about two years, that’s a big step.

“I could’ve imagined Sam taking other career steps, put it that way,” De Groot adds, referencing his move to Italy in 2020.

“He went on loan from here to Heeremveen, did wonderfully, came back and I think at that time he perhaps needed a little more patience. Sam had already made his debut which was good, but I think with more patience he could have been at PSV for longer, with more career stability. That would’ve been better in my eyes.

“He’s a very good player but in Italy, the game probably didn’t suit him as well. He was working hard, running channels and receiving one pass in 10 minutes - that’s not the game for Sam, it never has been.

“He’s a technician, he needs the ball regularly and when he has it, he’ll always do something good with it. The move to Rangers is a good one because Sam can play in a style of football that suits him.”

Lammers was the first player Beale met when the manager was scoping his summer rebuild, travelling to Italy to lay out his vision to a player he’d long followed.

Speaking to RangersTV after signing last week, Lammers admitted he needed “a new home” after a few seasons of instability.

You can’t help but fight the correlation between what the player needs and what Lammers, should, now theoretically enjoy. Responsibility as a central figure, playing in a team that dominates the ball, with a manager who allows technicians to thrive. There will be no excuses now, not that such things exist in Glasgow.

There is more than a fragment of risk attached to Rangers’ summer business. It’s unrealistic to assume that the club will sign finished products often and in that sense, Cantwell offers the archetypal example of what Beale’s after. Punching upwards slightly on the quality front to secure a player who the club wouldn’t have been able to when, in Lammers’ case, Atalanta were coughing up significant sums of money.

The key is personality. Some players’ careers don’t work out because of factors in their control and others outside of them. Beale is banking on Lammers falling into the latter category and knows on a technical level, he’s signing a player who’ll raise this squad’s ceiling.

So will it work?

“Definitely,” Heilmann replies confidently, without a hint of hesitation in his voice.

“Sam knows exactly what he wants, this is a very deliberate decision. I’m 100 percent convinced about this move and think he will perform, of that I’ve no doubt.”

At a recent press conference, Beale said on the topic of summer business: “We always have to take an element of risk. Sometimes we get a broken child, sometimes we get one before he has flourished and we have to help them flourish.”

If those who know Sam Lammers are to be believed, it’s all been a matter of timing and circumstance to this point. Lammers has everything set up to succeed at Ibrox, capitalising on potential that’s never been a secret.