There was an air of invincibility about the Rangers back line in the early days of Steven Gerrard’s tenure.

Fans will remember how that team defied the odds to make the Europa League group stages in the 2018-19 season. After the trauma of Progres Niederkorn the previous year, that was supposed to be a dip of the toe back into European action and to regain some respectability, no one expected Rangers to qualify.

The defence was the solid base for the success of that team. Both signed weeks earlier for a combined fee of roughly £5 million, Connor Goldson and Niko Katic cut an impressive partnership that could fill the roles for years to come.

Since then, both centre backs’ journeys have taken very different paths. While Katic still featured, Gerrard appeared to favour loanee Joe Worrall and then the signing of Helander ended any perception that Katic was a first-choice centre back. When the Croatian ruptured his cruciate ligament, it pushed him even further down the pecking order.

On the other side, Goldson’s pathway as a Rangers player could barely be more different. Since Katic fell out of the team, you could count on one hand the number of games Goldson has missed, and all have been enforced. He was Gerrard’s rock and that has continued into van Bronckhorst’s era.

Both men arrived at Ibrox in 2018 and both could be entering their final months as Rangers players. For a partnership that looked ready-made in its infancy, Katic and Goldson only played in the same team 52 times. It’s unlikely that they’ll do so again.

Niko Katic sent out a the ultimate modern-day signal that his time at Rangers may be up. Following James Sands being handed Katic’s no.19 shirt, Niko cleared his Instagram of all Rangers-related content; the social media equivalent of a scorched-earth policy.

READ MORE: Giovanni van Bronckhorst in Rangers title roar as coach insists ‘only first place counts’ 

Some fans are disappointed at the prospect of Katic leaving.

His attitude and enthusiasm have been infectious, and his goal at Celtic Park was of generational importance in Rangers’ rebuild and return to the top.

Yet for all Katic has offered, this summer feels like a natural point to end his time at the club. While fans haven’t seen him in over a year, a rawness remained within his game that he looked unlikely to shake off. His physicality was always welcome, but his game intelligence and ball-playing skills lack refinement. The injury came at a cruel time for him, but at the age of 25 it’s time for him to kick start his career elsewhere with the best wishes of every Rangers fan.

Connor Goldson’s situation remains entirely different. The protracted contract speculation has been far from ideal for all parties and many believe it is inevitable he is entering the final months - or even days - as a Rangers player.

There is every chance Goldson has a club lined up to sign for, but the news of contract talks arising once more suggests to me that the situation remains fluid. There remains a chance that Goldson could stay at the club and Rangers should do all they can to make that happen.

Transfer speculation is ramping up and the two centre backs that are regularly mentioned are John Souttar and Danilho Doehki. From my respective extensive and limited knowledge of the duo, both fit the mould of what Gio and Rangers should be looking for. Souttar has calmness in abundance and a welcome range of passing. Doehki is quick and strong. Both would be welcome additions and have attributes that show the type of centre back Rangers are looking at now, and why Katic’s career would be better served elsewhere.

While some will look at the links to potential new defenders and say we can then also bid farewell to Goldson, there should be caution on allowing that to happen so easily.

Goldson’s presence has been constant for 4 years. While he isn’t perfect and his start to this season was ropey, his voice within the leadership group has been influential. Rangers approach a summer where that pocket of experienced could completely change: Allan McGregor is hurtling towards his 40s, Steven Davis has fallen out of the picture under Gio, and Scott Arfield is also out of contract.

A lot of experience and leadership could be leaving Ibrox this summer and while the club shouldn’t be scared to embrace some change and freshness, they should be mindful about continuity from the squad that has lost one league game in 20 months. Winning is a habit and Goldson has been at the heart of it all - no one played more in this incredible run of results. While Doehki and Souttar could be smart additions, you can’t replicate Goldson’s consistency and constant presence in this team.

Rangers’ defence is a timely reminder of how quickly situations can change in football. The centre backs who conquered the league last season looked like the least of the club’s worries, but there’s now a situation where almost all of them could be gone in a matter of months.

It’s time to build a blend of the present and future, too much change too quickly can have the wrong effect. If Rangers can have Goldson at the club to oversee new centre backs that will arrive this year, it could be the perfect transition into the Gio era.