Steven Gerrard has admitted that retaining the considerable talent of Ryan Kent for next season’s concerted attack on Celtic’s dominance of Scottish football is his No1 priority.
The Rangers manager wants to build his team around the 22-year-old attacker and believes Kent’s experience at Ibrox this season will be a lure for other transfer targets.
However, Gerrard accepts that the only way he will be able to keep Kent would be in another loan move because if Liverpool decide to sell then the prices being quoted – up to £10 million – means Rangers cannot compete.
Gerrard said: “I won’t give up hope of keeping Ryan until I see him in a different kit. I have a very good relationship with Ryan. I think he’s really enjoying his football.
“It is important for a footballer to have happiness and especially a player who has experienced certain moves, certain decisions in his career that haven’t worked out.
“If you speak to Ryan he will tell you that he’s happy, that he’s enjoying his football, the fans are really enjoying him. There are a lot of boxes ticked with him being at Rangers. Liverpool know that, Ryan and his people know that, and we certainly understand that.
“The decision is going to be Ryan’s alongside Liverpool and his people. All we can do is make sure we’re at the table – and we will be at the table.
“Ryan knows that, his people know that and Liverpool know that. However, it’s a situation which could mean we might have to be patient and see what Jurgen Klopp does with Ryan, whether he extends his stay at Liverpool; there’s a lot of things that could happen over the next couple of months.
“Our supporters need to know I’m doing everything I can to make sure Ryan is here next year because he is one of the people I want to build the team around.
“We hope his development can help attract other talented players here. We hope talents are looking in, seeing what we’re doing with certain people – giving them an opportunity to play in front of 50,000 fans, in big games and on a European run.
“Hopefully some of our targets, guys on our lists, are saying to themselves, that looks like an exciting place to play.
“We want them to think something’s brewing here and they want to be part of it.”
Kent starts a two-match ban today after being cited for lashing out at Scott Brown in last Sunday’s Old Firm defeat in which he scored a very good goal.
Gerrard feels that the player – who owns a pet snake – is of a mind to continue his career in Scotland, all things being equal.
He said: “Ryan has intimated to me that he’s enjoyed every minute if being here. He’s enjoyed the journey so far. Ryan’s a different player to the one who arrived here. He’s come out of his shell.
“If you look at him from afar, he can be misunderstood. People think he’s got this confidence and swagger about him. But he’s a lovely kid, who’s good fun. He’s different.
“He’s got a pet snake, he wears baggy tracksuits and he gets a tattoo every five minutes. But that’s fine by me. He’s different to other people but he’s a great kid.
“From afar, people have an opinion of him which is so far from the truth. But having got to know Ryan Kent the way I have – I absolutely love him. Ryan knows that I want him here. His team-mates want him here – I know because I’ve seen it with my own eyes – and we’ll wait to see how that progresses. Am I confident? Yes and no. There is a lot of me that thinks this is the best place for Ryan, I try to put myself in the shoes of the agent and Liverpool, and I do actually believe that given the stage Ryan is at, Rangers is a very good place for him to grow, develop and keep moving forward.
“From where he was when he walked through the door to where he is now, he’s in a much better place.
“I think it would unlikely to be a permanent move. I would be more confident about getting him back on a loan – but I don’t care. If Liverpool wanted to sell him, that’s out of my hands.
“We’ll have to wait and see. I don’t know how is going to be at the table, and at what price and what Liverpool want for Ryan. The numbers being spoken about? I’m out.”
Alfredo Morelos is also missing at Fir Park today, serving game two of a four-match ban, but Andy Halliday is available again having served his one-match suspension,