How history suggests Rangers could face "hugely difficult" situation if forced to replace Calvin Bassey, Alfredo Morelos, Joe Aribo and Ryan Kent

There are dangers for Rangers in whatever player strategy they pursue this summer, believes former manager Alex McLeish.

Alex McLeish believes Rangers' recruitment will come under real pressure if they do not retain a clutch of mainstays being touted for moves this summer. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Alex McLeish believes Rangers' recruitment will come under real pressure if they do not retain a clutch of mainstays being touted for moves this summer. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

However, the 63-year-old believes the smart option for his old club would be retaining prized assets Calvin Bassey, Alfredo Morelos, Joe Aribo and Ryan Kent. It avoids the pitfalls inherent in cashing in and replacing them that he encountered when forced to rebuild ahead of Rangers quest to retain the championship in 2003-04, Appointed midway into the 2001-02 campaign, with the squad inherited from Dick Advocaat he snared the first five honours realistically within his grasp. Yet in the summer of 2003, the turnover that led to such as Barry Ferguson, Arthur Numan, Lorenzo Amoruso and Neil McCann departing and Nuno Capucho, Henning Berg, Frank de Boer and Emerson arriving, weakened a pool beaten comprehensively to the league by Celtic.

There is an added complication for Rangers right now should Giovanni van Bronckhost favour limiting player trading in the summer window as he attempts to wrestle the title back. Morelos, Aribo and Kent are in the final 12 months of their current deals, meaning they could leave under freedom of contract next year. A situation avoided with Connor Goldson when he was persuaded to a new deal last week after running down his contract. McLeish acknowledges the situation is problematic, but, on balance, he sees sticking as opposed to twisting with current personnel less so. However, he does appreciate Rangers could be powerless to prevent players taking matters into their own hands.

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"It's a huge decision and it would be really tough to take if they left for nothing,” he said. "It was like me at the end of that season [2003] losing seven or eight players and you've got a month to go before pre-season training starts and you are trying to regenerate the squad. You end up with free transfers coming in. Guys who have been great players but are maybe not at the peak of their careers any more. That's hugely difficult and that’s when the recruitment has to be great.

"A lot of Rangers players have been touted for big, big money and would fill the coffers up greatly, but can you get a replacement? I would definitely be trying to get them to extend because it will take so much money to replace them with similar quality. The difficulty in this world is that they will all be wanting to play in a better league and that's no disrespect to our fantastic country. But it's the Scottish league and if an English Premier League side comes in, their ears prick up. If someone comes in with the right offer, it will be hard even for Rangers, or Celtic, to turn down. Every week in England, I am asked about Calvin Bassey. Is he going, is this one or that one going? The prices now being touted are astronomical and it's credit to Rangers and the players for getting to the level they are. They've raised the bar and raised the fees. But if the players are staying, they have to be fully committed. Dragging their contracts out is the worst nightmare for the manager. Yet, if they leave at the end of them but have a spectacular final season, you [could] think ‘maybe it was worth it’.”

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Alex McLeish was promoting Premier Sports live and exclusive coverage of Armenia v Scotland (8th June) and Republic of Ireland v Scotland (11th June). Premier Sports is available from £9.99 per month and available on the platforms Sky, Virgin TV, Premier Player and Amazon Prime as an add-on subscription.

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