“Are you in Prague?” says Antonio Colak with a warm smile as the Zoom link opens. He’s not guessing from the backdrop, although a clear October Sky matching his own in northern Italy would look out of place in Glasgow’s autumn. Instead, Colak knows his former team-mates will soon be in town for their Europa League fixture with Sparta. “They say once a Ranger always a Ranger and it’s not just a saying - I'm still following every game and watching when I can.”

Colak is known as a positive figure and, as he’ll go on to explain, is more than happy at Parma who are perched at the top of Serie B in Italy. Having played for over 10 clubs throughout his career, moving on at this point is muscle memory. Even if saying goodbye at Ibrox was a little harder than normal.

“When I left Rangers and watched the highlight reel of my goals the club made, I was really emotional watching it with my wife,” he continues, speaking exclusively to the Rangers Review.

“When I arrived in Glasgow, I thought it could be the place I stayed for the rest of my career. But in football sometimes things are unpredictable. Of course, there was a moment where I was disappointed and said ‘I don’t want to leave’ but now I’m here in Parma having taken a new opportunity and life could not be better for me personally.

“My time at Rangers, however, it’s really, really unique.”

This time last year, Colak had just notched 10 goals in his first nine games at the club despite Rangers' season starting to nosedive. Twelve months later, he's at a new club and involved in a new project - helping re-establish Parma Calcio in the country’s top division once more. The 30-year-old’s already speaking Italian and has settled in quickly, enjoying a warmer climate and motivated by the prospect of reaching one of the world’s most famous leagues.

“It's really nice to be in Parma. You have a really high quality of living in terms of the food and the weather," he smiles, no doubt comparing the less hospitable forecast in Glasgow.

“Parma are first in the league and things are going as we planned. Of course, the aim is to get back into Serie A. I would compare Parma to Rangers in some ways, it’s a big club with a huge history. I had other offers this summer, including in Serie A, but the whole project at Parma convinced me to join. I wanted to play for a club who’s always fighting to be at the top, to help establish them as a top 10 club again.”

The attacker arrived at Ibrox in the summer of 2022 from PAOK and after enduring a tricky debut away at Livingston, quickly found his feet. Colak might not have been afforded all that many opportunities but routinely found the net in domestic competition while scoring two vital goals in a Champions League play-off with PSV.

It took time for the squad to adjust to Colak’s profile, a different style of forward to Alfredo Morelos. The Croatian proved a sharper shooter, but not able to occupy defences or fashion opportunities individually.

He was already familiar to the Ibrox faithful after scoring two goals that kept them out of the Champions League when playing for Malmo the season before. A year later, with the club managed by Giovanni van Bronckhorst following the departure of Steven Gerrard, only football could provide the script as Colak’s goals secured a spot in Europe’s elite for Rangers.

“Before I joined, I had a long talk with Giovanni for well over an hour about how he saw me fitting in. He wanted to bring me to the club along with Ross Wilson because they saw something in me,” he continues.

“When you arrive at Rangers it’s not easy to withstand the pressure and deliver immediately. I’m the type of player who waits for moments, who needs the support of the team to provide me with the ball and opportunities. Then, I want to be a killer in the box.

“In the beginning, I remember after the away game at Union Saint-Gilloise [in the third-round Champions League play-off] I had one of the worst performances in the team but soon after I started scoring and it felt like every time I shot at goal it was finding the net.”

Morelos had long been the club’s undisputed starting forward but struggling to recover from injury and caught up in disciplinary issues, combined with Colak’s scoring form, the 27-year-old wouldn’t regain his place under Van Bronckhorst. Colak was very much first pick and his numbers showed why.

By his own admission, Colak's a striker who requires the support of team-mates to create chances. He doesn't excel when running channels or carrying his way to goal but in the box, can routinely find the corners. Colak was lethal early in his Rangers career even when service was frugal, scoring his first 10 league goals from an xG under five - converting at twice his expected rate.

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“Goals are two-sided,” he continues. “On one side, I’m looking at what my team-mates are doing. Before I joined the club I was studying videos of the team, looking at how they create chances, the type of goals that Alfredo had scored before.

“Tav and Borna have phenomenal crosses but as the striker you need to form a relationship and know where the ball will arrive. On the other side, your team-mates need to understand your movement and how you work.”

Colak scored his first goal for the club in a 3-0 home reverse against Union before strikes against Kilmarnock and St Johnstone were followed by the PSV double-header. In the first leg, Colak finished a sensational first-time shot into the far corner - the perfect example of his instinct, a trademark goal.

“This is my quality as a player,” he continues when that consistent finish across his body is mentioned.

“If you see the goal against PSV, I had many that were similar during my time at the club. There was one against Aberdeen, and another against Dundee United. These goals are all from similar positions but it takes my team-mates finding me around the box. Then it’s a matter of trying to show your quality.”

Looking at the location of Colak’s goals from last season in the Scottish Premiership. It was the right side of the box which proved a happy hunting ground.

Aside from the strikes he himself mentions there were efforts against Kilmarnock, St Mirren and an acrobatic strike against Ross County from that same spot alongside the second of a brilliant brace away at Tynecastle.

By the time he’d played his last game under Van Bronckhorst - the summer signing had scored 11 league goals in 14 starts. The early numbers did start to drop and at times, especially during a tumultuous Champions League group stage which featured no points and a draining of confidence. Colak's impact on games was limited, unable to drag his side up the pitch or link the attack like Morelos. Minutes would soon be hard to find.

The arrival of Michael Beale in late November 2022 stabilised Rangers’ season, but not Colak’s. In terms of league appearances alone, the forward had started every game up until mid-November but was given the nod just four times thereafter. An injury in January, and another right at the start of Beale’s era, stunted early momentum and as the team found some rhythm, Colak’s chances proved scarce as Morelos once again became the main man.

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“When a new manager comes in, things change,” he reflects. “I think it was maybe something of an advantage for the other players who had already worked with him. When we started back after the World Cup break, I cannot really explain what happened.

“I wanted to come back as fast as possible. I worked day and night to be fit. Maybe sometimes you try too hard and then the chances don’t come or you get some minutes in what I call ‘Joker time’ at the end of games, when play is always broken up and you maybe only see five minutes as a substitute. It’s tricky to show off your qualities in these moments.”

Colak played 12.2 90 minutes under Van Bronckhorst from late July to November in 14 games, averaging 0.9 goals per 90. From Beale’s appointment until May, he managed just 4.4 90 minutes in 24 matches, averaging 0.67 goals per 90. Often it was small doses of 'Joker time' from the bench that made up that latter total.

There was a feeling at the time that the forward was perhaps less suited to Beale’s system, requiring fluid movement and link-up from two forwards in contrast to Van Bronckhorst’s more classic interpretation of the 4-3-3 with a focal point No.9. What's more, for a time, Morelos managed to recapture some form to offer a stronger all-round option.

Colak came in from the cold against Kilmarnock in early March and was praised by his manager who said the forward was his side’s “best player” giving him “exactly what he wanted”. A superb performance away at Hibs in February followed where Colak scored twice, worked hard defensively and appeared to thrive in a front two alongside Fashion Sakala.

But after his levels dropped starting away at Motherwell that weekend, the final two months of the season would be spent on the substitute's bench.

“I think I can play under any coach,” Colak continues. “I think it was consecutive game time that I was missing in the end. Sometimes football is like this. The coach has other plans or ideas or favours other players. All you can do is work hard and wait for your moments and I always tried to grab chances.

“I had a really good game away at Hibs but after that, I would say, you need continuous games to build and I didn't have that. In the last six months, the game time was not what I expected it to be."

Asked about Morelos, the man he competed with for a starting spot all season, Colak said: “Buff could be a quiet guy in the dressing room. We respected each other and had a good relationship. Perhaps it could 'tickle' him if he saw me playing and scoring because he wanted to be the main man and was used to scoring goals for the team."

Colak ended last season as Rangers' joint-top goalscorer alongside James Tavernier and across 16.7 90 minutes, he averaged 0.84 goals per 90 in the Scottish Premiership - a total only bettered by Kyogo Furuhashi's 0.99. His final strike came in ‘Joker Time’ away at St Mirren on the final day of the season.

For all the natural frustration at how his Rangers story ended, in comparison to the way it started, Colak is not an individual to harbour bitterness. He's moved on and is in an "excellent" place at his new club, more interested in what he gained during a year in Glasgow rather than what he did not.

“I still get messages every day from Rangers fans and that is crazy," he smiles.

"Scoring at Ibrox was just an incredible feeling. When I look back at my goals and see the fans roaring, it still gives me goosebumps.

“I wish absolutely nothing but success for the club. It’s such a unique club and something you will never get out of me. Rangers will always be part of my life and I can always say I was part of this club.

“Even the other day, you see the TIFO against Hibs - what the fans give to the club is incredible. They're giving their heart and soul for their team and that’s what they expect from their players. It’s one of the biggest clubs in the world in terms of dimension. Rangers will always be part of my life.”