Ibrox boss Graeme Murty says he will do all he can to help Bruno Alves fulfil his World Cup dream - but warned the Portugal star he must earn his Rangers recall.
Euro 2016 winner Alves has not featured for Gers since damaging a calf in December’s Old Firm showdown at Celtic Park.
While the 36-year-old centre-back has declared himself fit, he was left on the bench for Saturday’s 2-0 win over Hearts as Murty paired Russell Martin and David Bates at the heart of his back-four.
The Gers manager says he is determined to help the former Porto, Zenit St Petersburg and Fernerbahce ace play his part alongside Cristiano Ronaldo at this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
But Murty also admits it would be unfair for him to drop his current defensive duo while they are performing so well.
“Everyone in the squad has to be patient,” said Murty. “Everyone has to bring positive energy to the group and Bruno has done that.
“He trains fantastically well. He’s a consummate professional and he understands, because of his experience, that we have to pick a team to win the game and that’s all it is.
“It’s not to do with reputation, it’s to do with getting the people on the pitch who are performing and the guys at the moment are doing that.
“Bruno’s a top performer playing for the European champions and wants to be involved in as many games as possible (for Rangers) to make sure at the end of the season he is fit and ready to go.
“I understand that, I recognise that. But it is my job to make sure he is in perfect condition for us and also in perfect condition for his commitments at the end of the season.
“But my thought, as always, is only to go and try to win a game for Rangers.”
It was expected Alves would be restored to the Light Blues line-up as soon as he was fit.
But Murty says it would be wrong to ditch ex-Raith Rovers youngster Bates to make room for former boss Pedro Caixinha’s marquee summer signing.
“The surprising thing for me is the performance level of David Bates,” he said. “We brought him on against Celtic before new year because we trust him, because we understand the improvements he has made.
“Is he the finished article? No, not yet. But he is doing things I like and things that are getting better. He needs to see from me a degree of trust and respect for what he has done.”
Gers can open up a six-point gap on Aberdeen if they beat St Johnstone on Tuesday night but Murty says his side will have to defend a whole lot better than they did when allowing Tommy Wright’s team to claim a 3-1 Ibrox win two months ago.
He said: “I’ve just shown the boys the goals we conceded last time so we know where they produce a threat from.
“The players have been fully briefed on what kind of threat and we have to be ready to see that out.”