He may have a lighter pay packet this month but one thing Alfredo Morelos won’t be short of in April is time for self reflection .
The four-match suspension incurred by the Rangers striker for his latest bout of indiscipline means he won’t return to action until the first weekend of May.
The public declaration of contrition from Morelos for his red card in Sunday’s Old Firm defeat at Celtic Park has been welcomed by Steven Gerrard but the Rangers manager now needs actions to speak louder than any words from his 29-goal top scorer.
“Enough is enough,” said Gerrard as he reflected on what he feels is now a fork in the road moment for the 22-year-old Colombian striker’s career prospects.
He believes Morelos has finally realised the damage his dreadful disciplinary record is doing, not only to himself but to his team-mates who Gerrard revealed were not slow to take him to task for his foolish act of retaliation to Celtic captain Scott Brown which left Rangers down to ten men in the first half.
But Gerrard, who has fined Morelos a week’s wages for the incident, says the player must now take responsibility for cleaning up his act.
“I need Alfredo to help himself now,” said Gerrard. “No one can help Alfredo more than himself and I think he realises that. I think the penny has dropped now.
“He has seen the reaction of his team-mates when they came in at half-time on Sunday. He saw the reaction of his team-mates after the game. He looked at my reaction on the day.
“Where he is right now, there is a risk that if he continues to behave the way he is behaving, then that’s what he will be remembered for. He needs to do a lot of self reflecting, he needs to speak to close people around him and get some honesty. He needs to change.
“He doesn’t need to change technically or tactically, because you can see that in his numbers and the majority of his performances this year he has been outstanding. But there is a part of his game which is discipline which he needs to improve now and it needs to change now.
“Listen, there is a fantastic footballer there and there is a good person there too. I have no doubts in those two areas.
“I’ve got every confidence that he can improve and change while still being the top player he can be and everyone benefits from that. In any area of life, you can have as much support as you like, but to change and improve it’s got to come from within yourself.”
Morelos last month signed a new contract with Rangers which runs until 2023 and is widely regarded as the Ibrox club’s most valuable asset. But Gerrard accepts than any transfer fee received for Morelos, either this summer of further down the line, could be negatively impacted by his suspect temperament.
“Any individual that is getting watched by teams around the world, they look at every aspect of your game,” said Gerrard. “If you are a forward, they will be looking at your goals, your movement, your temperament, your mentality, your attitude. They will look at it all.
“It’s very difficult to predict the future for Alfredo and it would be very foolish of me to jump into the future. I’m in the here and now and the situation is he is suspended for four games – but he’s still our player. It’s very stupid of me to make decisions on what I should do or will do further down the line when the reality is that he’s our player until the end of the season anyway.
“So of course I’m going to do what is best for the player right now.
“He is harming himself with his actions and he is harming his team-mates. More importantly, he is harming the supporters who adore him and that come to watch him. But they come to watch him on the pitch and they come to watch the good stuff. The sooner he realises that the better.
“It was important, not necessarily for me or my staff, that Alfredo issued his apology on Monday. It was important for the supporters, especially the chunk of fans who came to Celtic Park and got behind us. They were the ones I felt sorry for. I spoke to Alfredo on Monday morning and it was his decision [to make the apology]. It was pleasing for me to see that he was remorseful and that he understands that he let the team down and the fans down. They were the two main things that I was looking for.”
Gerrard’s immediate focus is tonight’s visit of Hearts to Ibrox. While Rangers’ title challenge was effectively ended by Sunday’s Old Firm defeat, he has warned his squad that plenty remains at stake in the remaining weeks of the season.
“The players have to realise who they’re playing for,” he said. “They’re playing for a club and a set of supporters where the demand is that you can’t let it fizzle out.
“I’d be very disappointed in them individually and collectively if that was the case. The reality is, to be brutally honest, players are playing for their futures now in the last seven games.
“I need players to show who’s with me, who fancies continuing this journey. I saw a different reaction in the dressing room after the Old Firm game. I saw a very disappointed and flat reaction the first time we went to Celtic Park. After this one, I saw in the players that the majority of them fancy it. I want to see that until the end of the season. I want to see people who roll their sleeves up and say ‘let’s carry this on, try to finish strong and continue building for next year’.”