This article was initially published in January when Rangers were first linked with a move for Oscar Cortes. The piece has been republished following the news that Cortes has joined Rangers on a season-long loan with an obligation to buy. As the Rangers Review reported last week the club had been in advanced negotiations with Lens to prolong Cortes' stay at Ibrox.

Football has never just been a game or a career for Oscar Cortes. It has provided an escape and offered him opportunities. It has changed, and defined, his life.

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He was once one of the most talked about and hyped young talents in Colombia. Having become something of a forgotten man in France, the 20-year-old has now arrived in Scotland at an early career crossroads. Cortes is living his dream, just not in the way that he perhaps would have envisaged.

A move to Rangers, initially on loan until the end of the season, has come just months after a significant switch to Lens. His first foray into European football has not gone to plan. The second, therefore, carries even greater significance for a forward who at one time seemed to have the world at his feet.

Carl Worswick saw those initial steps at close hand. The English football writer has called Colombia home for several years now and he is an authoritative and experienced voice on the game in South America. His home in Bogota sits in the shadow of Estadio El Campine and Cortes’ field of dreams. It was there the forward made his debut for Millonarios towards the end of 2022 after emerging through their academy system.

“I would say about a year ago, he was probably the most raved about young kid in Colombia,” Worswick told the Rangers Review. “He hasn’t actually played that many games. I have probably seen most of his games. I heard of him a few years ago because I went to this tournament and one of the guys there told me about this kid who was in the youth team at Millonarios that was going to be something special. When he started playing, he came through halfway through last season and he was like a duck to water. He was immediately into the first team.”

Cortes’ rise and rise at club level coincided with his upward trajectory for his country. He scored three times during Colombia’s run to a third-place finish in the South American Under-20 Championship, a tournament that was played on home soil, and seemed set to progress further in time. His progress on the international stage has stalled as a result of recent struggles domestically.

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Cortes has become accustomed to dealing with adversity. He was surrounded by poverty and crime from a young age in a village near the port city of Tumaco. As a child, Cortes is said to have trained barefoot and gone hungry at times due to the scarcity of resources within his family. Football became his way out, his natural talent with a ball at his feet almost like a golden ticket to the prosperity and safety of another continent. Many of his contemporaries would have been defined by their surroundings and suffered as a consequence but Cortes has shown his spirit as well as his skill.

It was to northern France where he would move last summer. Lens and Millonarios are part of the same investment group – a conglomerate that also has interest in Inter Miami – and it was perhaps no surprise that one of Colombia’s prized assets would switch between clubs with a vested interest. The 4.5million euro deal hasn’t worked out. His switch to Ibrox, therefore, carries risks for both parties. 

“That was his principle goal,” Worswick said. “He has always been focused on being in Europe. He is from Choco, a county of Colombia that is the poorest area by far. The poverty there is extreme. To go from that to living in the capital city would have been a culture shock. Then to go to France… I very much doubt he spoke any French at all, and I doubt he speaks any English. He is still young. He has had that injection of fame.

"It wasn’t the ideal preparation moving to a completely different culture. How is he going to adapt to Scotland? I worry a little bit on that basic human level. He was ripping up the Colombian league. He was too good for the league but for his personal development it was too early for him to make that move. But it was understandable, and it happens too often to players who make an immediate splash and then suddenly everyone is after them.”

Cortes was left out of the Lens squad for the Champions League this term. In his early days at Stade Bollaert-Delelis, it became clear that he had work to do to become a regular and the three at the back formation deployed by manager Franck Haise has not suited him. He earned just 15 minutes of action in the Ligue 1 fixtures with Stade Rennais, Nantes and Nice but a 25 minute outing at home to Stade Reims last month saw him score his first goal for Lens. It could be his last now that Rangers have an option to purchase him at the end of the campaign.

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Comparisons with Alfredo Morelos are only natural. El Bufalo was, like Cortes, just 20 when he arrived in Glasgow, but he did so with more of a track record behind after impressing for HJK. Cortes has undoubted natural talent but he hasn’t played as much football over the course of his career. Four goals during Colombia's run to the quarter-finals of the Under-20s World Cup in Argentina brought Cortes to the attention of European clubs but he is still a relatively untried and unknown talent.

How he settles in will be interesting,” Worswick said. “He hadn’t tested himself outside South America until a few months ago. He will be feeling the pressure. Is that going to help him? I don’t know him personally so I can’t say. Perhaps he wasn’t signed because the manager said ‘I need this kid, he is going to be the final piece of the jigsaw’.

Rangers Review: Alfredo Morelos

"It was perhaps more than he was an up-and-coming kid, there was a lot of potential there, the fee was worth taking a risk and given the links between the clubs it was a no brainer so the player has been shifted like a pawn in a chess game and not for the best in his career, which is sadly quite common for Colombian footballers. They find it hard to move out of Colombia. Alfredo did it well but there have been many cases where that hasn’t been the case.”

Suggestions of a return to Bogota permeated the first half of the campaign and Alberto Gamero, the Millonarios manager, was repeatedly asked about bringing Cortes back to the club. It was a suggestion that the player himself dismissed out of hand, his belief that he would make a name for himself in Europe unaffected by his struggles at various points of the campaign. Only Cortes will know if he made the wrong move or not, but this one must be the right one as he entrusts Philippe Clement with the next stage of his development.

Rangers will need to be patient with him. Given the situation that he has walked into at Ibrox, that is perhaps easier said than done. Clement’s side are very much in the Premiership title race and there is a requirement for each of the Belgian’s recruits this month to make their presence felt during the second half of the campaign. This is another move that must be considered in personnel terms as well as sporting ones and Cortes will be outside of his comfort zone as he adjusts to a new climate, new city and new club.

Cortes found a natural slot on the right side of a 4-2-3-1 formation at Millonarios. He is able to operate on the other flank and occasionally drifts into central areas. His comfort and confidence on the ball has always made him stand out and comparisons have been made with Faustino Asprilla in his homeland. Cortes possesses a turn of foot, as well as an eye for a pass and a goal. In his first season for Millonarios, he scored six times and provided three assists in 16 appearances.

READ MORE: Oscar Cortes scouted: Pace, potential and a wide-forward goalscoring fit for Clement

Cortes was released from an international camp at the weekend as discussions over his future progressed. He will hope the finalisation of those talks, the outcome that has been reached, will allow him to establish himself for Colombia once again. A fixture with Spain at the London Stadium in March could be a new beginning for Cortes in that regard. La Tricolor are now under the guidance of Nestor Lorenzo as he seeks to rebuild following their failure to reach the World Cup in Qatar.

“He has been a bit more coordinated with the Under-20s, who Cortes was playing for,” Worswick said. “A few of them have gone on to play for the first team and Cortes has fallen out of the picture. He has not been playing in Europe and not been mentioned being part of the squad list. I haven’t heard of him being a candidate but that could change. This time last year there was serious talk of him being the next generation. Juan Cuadrado is too old now and they need to renovate under the new manager. Cortes would have been the obvious choice, but he has barely been playing so it is a bit of a shame. It will be interesting to see how he responds to a fresh challenge.”