Rangers signal title intent with signing of Jermain Defoe
It’s understood the arrival of the 36 year old hinges on a medical today in England and he would join up with his new team-mates at their warm weather camp in Tenerife next week.
Steven Davis also remains on course to seal a deal to move back to Rangers from Southampton and is set to join Defoe at the camp.
Defoe could make his debut for his club at Cowdenbeath’s Central Park, where Rangers will resume their season in a Scottish Cup fourth round fixture after the Winter break.
A former England team-mate of Ibrox manager Steven Gerrard, Defoe will provide another option in attack as Rangers seek to overhaul Celtic in the title race.
Former Celtic striker and BT Sport pundit Chris Sutton yesterday described the move as a “game changer” and urged Celtic to “get their finger out” in the transfer market.
The reigning champions are ahead of second-place Rangers only on goal difference following a 1-0 defeat at Ibrox last week but Brendan Rodgers’ side have a game in hand. Third-placed Kilmarnock are a further point behind.
Defoe’s reputation as a fearsome penalty box striker was initially forged at West Ham United, while he also enjoyed two productive spells at Tottenham as well as a third spell on loan at White Hart Lane. Defoe is sixth in Spurs’ all-time list of goalscorers with 143 goals.
Gerrard was linked with the striker shortly after being appointed Rangers manager last summer and his need for an auxiliary striker has arguably grown greater following the first half of this season.
Defoe, pictured, is a potentially useful stand-in for principal striker Alfredo Morelos, whose style of play means he is often walking a suspension tightrope. Morelos learned yesterday he was not being punished for a series of incidents during last Saturday’s win over Celtic. But he has been booked 13 times and sent off three times already this season, although one of those red cards was later rescinded.
Morelos has still managed to score 20 times to date during this campaign and is likely to be the subject of much interest in this transfer window. Gerrard will hope Defoe can ease the pressure on the young Colombian’s shoulders.
Kyle Lafferty, who was signed in the last window from Hearts with this intention, has so far struggled to shine and is without a goal in his last 13 appearances.
Two years ago, Defoe returned to the Premier League with Bournemouth, where he had spent a spell on loan early in his career. He has not scored this season and struck only four times in the last campaign. But he had a productive season in 2016-17 when he scored 16 times for Sunderland and earned a recall to the England set-up, scoring in a 2-0 win over Lithuania and also coming on against Scotland in the 2-2 draw at Hampden Park.
He scored 20 times in total for England in 57 appearances. In recent years he has become as well known for his charity work as his penalty box prowess and was awarded an OBE last summer. He set up the Jermain Defoe Foundation in 2013 to support homeless, abused and vulnerable children in St Lucia, where his family is from. More recently he befriended young Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery who was suffering from a rare form of cancer called neuroblastoma. Bradley died in 2017 aged six and Defoe has his name tattooed on his arm.
Defoe’s last goal in the Premier League was in a 2-2 draw at Bournemouth in March last year. He has made only four league appearances, all as substitute, for Eddie Howe’s team this season.
Defoe credits mentor Ian Wright, who he played with at West Ham, for prolonging his career. Wright, who also enjoyed a brief stint in Scottish football with Celtic, introduced Defoe to a French fitness expert, Tiberius Darau, who he knew from Arsenal days.
Speaking last year, Defoe said he felt as fit as he ever has. “I might be 35 but my fitness stats are the same as ever,” he said. “I didn’t know I would reach this age and still be running down the channels like I’m 25, so no, I don’t know how long I can keep going. But if I feel the same at 37, why not carry on? If we were looking at my stats at the age of 25 and they were the same, it wouldn’t even be a question, would it?”
Meanwhile, Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has confirmed midfielder Steven Davis is set to re-join Rangers.
The 34-year-old Northern Ireland captain looks set to return to Ibrox, having left to sign for Saints during the summer of 2012.
Davis has found his first-team chances limited this season, and Hasenhuttl revealed the club would look to support the midfielder in his desire to move back to Scotland.
“The fact is he has a half-a-year contract here until the summer, so what we want to give him is a chance to make the next step. If there is a possibility, then we will help him to do so,” Hasenhuttl said at a press conference.
“He has done a lot for this club, and there we find a good solution where we have a win-win situation for both sides.”
Asked if the deal was close to completion in the next few days, the Saints manager added: “It can be. I am looking forward and if it is, then we will tell you.”